Dense urban centres are being touted as the Saanich of the future, where residents can live, work and play all in the same vicinity. And despite developments already being approved that move us in that direction, Saanich’s mayoral candidates both say we’re getting ahead of ourselves in some respects.
Mayor Frank Leonard says there already exist many documents – citing the official community plan and local area plans – that give clear enough direction to developers to come forward with agreeable proposals, but more should be done to create comprehensive centres.
“We need to consider the roads and then the surrounding land-use and come up with complete plans,” Leonard said. “I try to make sure the community shapes an opinion and ultimately a plan.”
He stresses that planning for separate centres is better than creating a new overall vision.
“I don’t know if we want development too well-defined. I don’t want land-use to be a computer decision where you tick off every box,” Leonard said. “This planning requires a human dynamic shaping every individual community.”
David Cubberley agrees, but says more attention needs to be paid to the official community plan and local area plans than has been in the past.
“Until we put a visionary plan together for these centres and go through the exercises of doing that, we certainly shouldn’t do any more Uptowns,” he said. “With Saanich’s vision and the approved plans that were signed on to, it’s hard to imagine how you get that outcome (of Uptown).”
Cubberley says this plan must be looked at on a more regional level, as it will require restructuring such things as transit.
“We have to plan these corridors … with a public planning process that’s visionary and brings all the interests together,” he said. “We sure won’t get that by having developers come with a one-size-fits-all plan for the whole community.”
This vision is lacking, say many of the Saanich council candidates. Though there is a moderate framework for plans in place, there need to be policies and guidelines that are more concrete.
“In the development industry, they want simple. ‘Tell us what you want, we’ll do it,'” said incumbent Judy Brownoff. “Everyone has to be involved in the process, but at the end of the day council has to approve the standard, then the development industry will know what’s expected of them.”
Incumbents Susan Brice, Vic Derman, Paul Gerrard, Dean Murdock, Vicki Sanders and Leif Wergeland all want Saanich to create a vision before moving forward on the centres. Ingrid Ip, Nichola Wade, Rob Wickson and Harald Wolf agree.
“Once we have a vision, we can take it to the development community to make it happen,” Wolf said. “Right now they’re the ones driving development.”
Wade says council shouldn’t be wasting developers’ time nitpicking issues like the colour of a building. Instead, she says council needs to articulate the overall vision.
Murdock says creating major centre development permit guidelines will allow for a framework from which developers can work, while also encouraging community input.
“(These guidelines need) to cover everything from the form and character, to the quality of housing, the level of sustainability, the contribution towards affordability – in terms of units and a cash contribution – and transportation alternatives,” he said.
Brice stressed that community consultation must play a crucial role in both creating the long-term vision, and whenever a developer comes forward with a development proposal.
“It means going way further upstream, engaging the stakeholders in meaningful discussion about what would be in the best interest of the community.”
Get more from your candidates
We asked all the candidates how they want to see urban centre planning progress in Saanich. Check out their full comments here.