About three years ago Larry Trupp began the process of selling his family property at 1241 Maywood Rd.
The double lot backs onto Peacock Hill Park. The sale price for the lots has been dropped from $425,000 to $398,000 each, but no one is interested. That’s because Saanich locked down 60 per cent of the property with a covenant based on Environmental Development Permit Area, Trupp said.
“My parents bought this as three lots in 1951. I grew up here with my three sisters, and the landscaping my parents did was immaculate.”
A new building can be erected on either site but it’s limited in size and must be located within close proximity to Maywood Road, though most of the neighbouring properties have houses higher up the hill. The remnants of his parent’s house are still there even though the 800-square-foot building has been removed.
“We had never heard of the EDPA – I live in Vic West but my parents (who own the property) were here at the time of the EDPA’s beginning – and they were coherent, if anyone’s wondering. But they had no inkling of any EDPA notice for their property.”
Trupp co-operated for two years with Saanich, adding service to the property, while adjusting development plans due to the EDPA covenant, which included an easement for a driveway that Saanich suggested.
“Two years and council cut it down in less than 30 minutes,” Trupp said. “I don’t want to say it’s rendered the property useless but I don’t know how else to describe it.”
Trupp’s real estate agent, Ron Neal, confirmed the covenants are in the way of a sale for this and other properties too.
“Unequivocally, the reason (1241 Maywood Rd.) hasn’t sold is the EDPA covenant,” Neal said. “Saanich is controlling the property unfairly in my opinion. The level of governance is out of control.”
Neal had previously listed a waterfront property in Saanich where EDPA restricts the creation of a walkway to the water, creating a barrier to selling that property too.
“(Buyers) are walking away from (Trupp’s) property because they can’t build what they want,” Neal said.
Saanich Council has now recognized the severity of what the EDPA is doing and on Monday, Coun. Fred Haynes put forward a motion for two EDPA open houses. That was struck down and replaced with two open houses, a town hall meeting (possibly in September) and most importantly, a letter to all of the approximately 2,000 property owers affected by the EDPA.
“We’re offering an opportunity for residents to engage with staff on the EDPA,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs the District’s Environmental and Natural Areas advisory committee. “It was suggested by (Monday night’s) presenters to have a town hall-style meeting, similar to what took place for the Cedar Hill Tennis Courts.”
The news is of little comfort to Trupp at this point. His family has $1 million tied up in the two properties, which his parents always considered a future investment. Neighbours were against the split of the biggest of the two lots, returning the plot to its original status as three lots. They even went so far as to suggest the property be donated to Saanich as an addendum to Peacock Hill.
“We gave up on maintaining the land, we’re already in over $100,000 on getting this property to sell, and I’m not entirely sure what I’m allowed to do in terms of maintenance anyways,” Trupp said. “People used to visit our property just to appreciate the garden, the flowers and the work my dad did with the rock walls.”
The problem, he says, is that after 60 years of heavy landscaping and routine maintenance by his parents, the land simply is no longer a sensitive ecosystem, which is what the EDPA was set out to protect. Especially now, as it’s overrun by English ivy, Himalayan blackberries, and other species, many of them invasive. The ivy is now encroaching the oaks of Peacock HIll
“There used to be strips of camus on the property, and Easter and chocolate lilies, but they were long gone before this happened,” Trupp said.
Ted Lea, a retired registered biologist from the Ministry of Environment, has taken a stance against the EDPA. He spent his career assessing sensitive ecosystems, and says Trupp’s, like many of the Saanich properties he’s visited, do not warrant such strict protection under the EDPA.
“There is no sensitive ecosystem,” Lea said. “What’s there is in poor ecological condition and does not meet the definition of sensitive ecosystem. It should be removed from the sensitive ecosystem inventory, and in fact, so should all of Peacock Hill Park. The park is dominantly overrun with invasive species, though there are patches of native species.”
Saanichite Anita Bull led the presentation at Monday’s council by the Saanich Residents for a Responsible EDPA, which has more than 500 signatures on its petition. “No. 14 of the EDPA literature says that if a registered biologist confirms you are not on a sensitive ecosystem, you can be removed, but staff isn’t letting people out,” Bull said. “Homeowners don’t have the wherewithal to protect sensitive ecosystems, and they don’t want to. Saanich isn’t making the effort to do this in their own properties, why should they hold them to a higher standard?”
Murdock admitted there’s certainly a lot of work to be done to restore environmentally significant areas in Saanich lands. “Saanich should be a leader, I don’t know that the standard is different but I appreciate there are expectations in the EDPA which should be applied equally to Saanich park lands too.”
The first open house could be in late June.