After a year’s worth of confusion and misinformation, a new level of clarification has been brought forward for Saanich’s environmental development permit area.
Last week, Saanich posted an updated and thorough explanation of the EDPA’s goals and values on its website.
It’s a post clearly designed to better facilitate the EDPA’s interpretation, something that’s been cited as a challenge by several residents.
It happens to follow a recently released report by a pair of University of Victoria law students who thoroughly reviewed the environmental development permit area bylaw regime for four B.C. municipalities including Saanich. Among the recommendations is added clarity around the bylaw.
All of this precedes Saanich’s soon to be commissioned third-party review of the EDPA that council set in motion at the March 16 town hall at Pearkes Rec Centre.
In the meantime, Saanich is awaiting the results of a staff-ordered report being done by Richmond-based G.P Rollo and Associates.
Saanich CAO Paul Thorkelsson said the G.P. Rollo report is likely due by the end of the month and should work to inform the consultants hired for the upcoming council-led EDPA review. G.P. Rollo was hired to research the bylaw with a particular focus on the land values.
“We don’t know if [G.P. Rollo] will be finished before the next review starts but it should be one of the pieces considered as part of the review,” Thorkelsson said.
In addition, there were summarizations from the results of B.C. Assessment Authority’s review panel that revisited nearly 40 Saanich properties, which all had assessments appealed believing the EDPA affected the evaluation.
The review panel only adjusted one property, however, said Gerry Marolla, deputy assessor with B.C. Assessment. It was the oceanfront lot of 4351 Gordon Head Rd., which is now at $1,027,000, about $750,000 less than it was in 2015, but $250,000 higher than it was initially assessed for 2016.
Moving ahead, Marolla said B.C. Assessment will constantly be reviewing how sales of properties in the EDPA are reacting to the market. Aside from 4351 Gordon Head Rd., which is based on a restrictive covenant, there was no significant difference between the values of properties within and without the EDPA for assessment purposes, Marolla added.
He also pointed out it’s a challenge right now to know if the EDPA is having any effect in the hot real estate market.
“The assessments are already behind what’s happening, and in some places quite dramatically,” Marolla said. “If the EDPA is a quantifiable factor it will [eventually] show up in the marketplace.”
As for Saanich’s post, it follows a similar suggestion in the report by UVic Environmental Law Clinic students Gabrielle Grant and Andie Britton-Foster, who push for an increased clarification of the EDPA goals and allowances as one of three recommendations in their report, Environmental Development Permit Areas: In Practice and in Caselaw. The report compares the EDPA regimes of four municipalities, Saanich, Nanaimo, Kelowna and the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
The research found a need for clearer lists and definitions of what constitutes development on EDPA properties, and what activities are exempt from regulation. One recommendation also called for a better explanation on the importance of connecting the fragmented ecosystem.
“In many respects, Saanich boasts one of the highest levels of clarity and detail between the studied regimes,” Britton-Foster said.
“In terms of mapping for designation purposes, Saanich provides one of the most clearly laid out maps, and an interactive GIS map to better understand the area surrounding the designated properties. Saanich clearly articulates what activities are and are not caught under the regime, which should reduce confusion and boost compliance rates.”