The seller of a Maplewood home says the market is proving Saanich’s environmental development permit area is not as controversial as some believe.
Rob Stewart and his wife bought their 3,500 square-foot home on San Merino Crescent in 2011. They listed the house on a Wednesday and by the Monday had accepted the better of multiple offers, a little over the $1.28 million asking price.
The buyers are from Victoria, Stewart said, and were aware that most of the property falls in Saanich’s environmentally sensitive areas (ESA) atlas.
“It sold just like all the properties right now, it was fast, with no conditions on the offers,” Stewart said. “I think it shows most people believe in environmental stewardship.”
The B.C. Assessment Authority reviewed the sale of 98 Saanich properties in 2015 that were in the EDPA with none having a recorded impact in the searchable sale documents.
The pending sale of the property – which has yet to close – comes the same week that Saanich council approved the removal of three properties from the EDPA, 4007 and 4011 Rainbow St., and 4351 Gordon Head Rd.
Stewart said the decision to make a lifestyle change with his wife and move to an acreage in Metchosin has nothing to do with the EDPA, which he fully supports. However, he is concerned with what he titles “propaganda” literature being disseminated by the group called Citizens for a Responsible EDPA.
Stewart was unfamiliar with the EDPA until he found a note from the Citizens for a Responsible EDPA in his mailbox, and began to educate himself on the bylaw.
He learned that when Saanich initially implemented the ESA atlas in 2012 it included the entirety of his property, including house and driveway, as it was based on aerial maps that predated the house’s 2010 construction.
“I didn’t know how Saanich was dealing with it when I first received the anti-EDPA propaganda,” Stewart said. “In the beginning the well-written anti-EDPA material fired me up. I think the issue comes from people who bought bigger properties a long time ago, enjoyed the land, but want to develop it.”
When Stewart contacted Saanich planning he said they responded within a day and had a site visit by the manager of environmental services, Adriane Pollard.
“Pollard came out and walked the property with me, made the notes on the property herself, and it didn’t cost me any money at all, which was counterintuitive to everything that was expressed to me by anti-EDPA propaganda,” Stewart said.
Before they decided to sell, Stewart actually made a deal with Saanich to build a small outbuilding for an office in the EDPA portion of the property. In trade, they agreed to add a stand Garry oaks that weren’t in the EDPA envelope. It cost him a total of $300 for the title change application.
Stewart’s neighbours on San Merino, Ben Kerr and Merie Beauchamp, are also supporters of the EDPA. It falls on 40 per cent of the lot. Kerr is a member of SAFE, Saanich Action For the Environment, a pro-EDPA group that started earlier this year with president Susan Haddon of the Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association.
“There are a number of people in SAFE who are in the EDPA, and many who aren’t,” Kerr said, “and we’ve also learned that there are many more people in the EDPA who are supportive but don’t want to speak out.”
For Kerr, the idea of the EDPA is to preserve the natural capital in Saanich. The trees, ecosystems and watercourses are a system, and the objective is to keep those systems together, rather than continue to remove and fracture them.
Kerr’s property backs onto Leeds Park, a mixed forest woodland ecosystem, one of the few EDPA areas south of McKenzie Avenue. It’s a cul-de-sac built in the 1940s and the houses will not be there in 20 years, he added. Without the EDPA, the development pressures are going to split the half-acre lots.
“At the end of the day, the reason we’re at this junction with the EDPA being controversial is because people are suggesting maybe now it’s time to stop before the ecosystems are all gone, and the reality is we don’t have any more land on the South Island. It’s going to put pressure on the spots in the core area that aren’t densely developed already.”