Mayor Richard Atwell is prepared to revise the Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw in the name of instant relief for Saanich landowners.
The mayor is standing by his initial attempt to repeal the bylaw in spring, which council did not support.
Saanich’s long-awaited additional town hall meeting for the EDPA is Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m. in the field house of the George Pearkes Community Centre, 3100 Tillicum Rd.
“Everyone will get a chance to speak, it could be a long night,” Atwell said.
The EDPA bylaw came into effect in 2012 following a campaign of public consultation by Saanich staff. It blew up into controversy when Norman Bull and Teresa Bijold of 4007 and 4011 Rainbow St. claimed their properties were losing value as they’d be unable to subdivide them due to the EDPA bylaw, despite living on the properties for decades. In contrast, the neighbouring properties on the street were sub-developed in the years just prior to the EDPA.
What followed was a couple of roller coaster council sessions in 2015, in which crowds filled the chambers for the EDPA. Atwell attempted an impromptu repeal of the EDPA but that failed.
Instead, council and staff ordered two open house meetings and a town hall on Nov. 12 in the auditorium of Garth Homer Society.
The town hall filled Garth Homer and dozens more were turned away, with council immediately declaring a second town hall would be held.
“What we need is an instant relief for homeowners,” Atwell said. “My attempt to repeal the bylaw in the summer didn’t find favour with council so I’d be reluctant to bring that back.”
There is some suggestion the EDPA should be limited to subdivisions, which Atwell thinks was its original intent.
“Whatever we do, we need to do something so we don’t have this drag on for two years.”
Council to this point seems split.
Anita Bull represents her family elders Norman Bull and Teresa Bijold, as well as the group Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA. Her group has met with some councillors to promote the creation of a new volunteer stewardship program that will ensure a better future for Saanich’s sensitive ecosystems, particularly in urban setting.
“The reason we plan to give council at the town hall is that the current bylaw isn’t doing enough to protect our environment,” Bull said.
While some people support the EDPA, including a new group called SAFE, Saanich Action For the Environment, Bull says the bylaw is actually having a negative affect.
“Right now no one wants to plant trees or any native plants for fear their property will be placed in the EDPA with all its restrictions and their property will lose value,” Bull said. “People are plucking seedlings from the ground before they are captured under the tree bylaw.”
As of the Feb. 1 appeal deadline, B.C. Assessment Association has received upwards of 35 appeals from Saanich homeowners blaming the EDPA for devaluing their property, said B.C. Assessment spokesperson Reuben Danokody.
Using the EDPA mapping, B.C. Assessment undertook a January initiative to study the 2015 sales of EDPA affected properties.
To this point, B.C. Assessment agents aren’t using the EDPA as a direct factor in the valuation of properties. However, if the EDPA affected the negotiations of the recent sale of a property, it will have an indirect link.
In fact, of the 98 Saanich properties sold in 2015 that are in the EDPA atlas B.C. Assessment noted none had included a notification of the EDPA in the details of the sales, such as MLS.
“From our research, there’s nothing stating that MLS said there’s an EDPA bylaw in place. Whether or not the vendor or buyer is aware is a question mark, and we don’t know if it’s intentional or not, it could be a case of the vendor not knowing,” Danokody said.
B.C. Assessment has in fact been monitoring any potential impact of the EDPA on property value since 2012. They have reason to believe there’s a market impact, though there is not enough evidence to this point to quantify it.
“We’re keeping an open mind and if the evidence points in that direction we will consider it,” Danokody said.
Bull’s citizen group is currently conducting a survey with 890 names to date in regards to the issue of disclosure. The group is seeking how many properties were purchased since March 2012, whether there was disclosure of the EDPA on the property, and whether they would have bought if they knew the property was in the EDPA.