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Investigation targets biologist at heart of EDPA opposition

The staunchest opponent to Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw, a registered professional biologist, has confirmed he is under investigation by the College of Applied Biology.
Registered professional biologist Ted Lea is under investigation following complaints made by three people to the College of Applied Biology. Ted Lea/ Facebook

The staunchest opponent to Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw, a registered professional biologist, has confirmed he is under investigation by the College of Applied Biology.

Since 2014 Ted Lea has been a vocal opponent of the EDPA, criticizing its mapping, based on aerial photos, as ‘guess work.’ His reports, based on site visits to properties that fall within the EDPA boundaries, tell of ecosystems overrun with invasive species and without any reflection of the sensitive, Garry oak and riparian ecosystems the bylaw is designed to protect.

Going into Saturday’s ‘mega hearing’ in the Garth Homer auditorium – at which Saanich council will consider full or partial removal of 29 properties from the environmentally sensitive areas mapping that guides the EDPA – Lea, a Gordon Head resident and registered professional biologist, has submitted a report for each of the requests.

Lea is also an original member of the outspoken Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA Society.

There have been 72 property applications for EDPA removal so far, and Saanich Planning confirmed Lea is the only registered professional biologist to submit reports in support of EDPA property removal requests. There have been at least two other professional biologists to voice concerns on multiple occasions, but due to his steadfast opposition to the EDPA Lea has made himself readily available and does not charge homeowners for site visits and reports regarding the EDPA.

“The mapping is so poorly done I can’t see charging people for bad mapping,” Lea said. “I do paid work for other people, in Saanich and other areas.”

Despite the fact College of Applied Biology complaints are confidential, Lea confirmed he has retained legal counsel regarding the investigation, and believes one of the complainants is an employee of the District of Saanich.

“SCRES learned that three individuals have filed complaints against Ted Lea, Registered Professional Biologist, with the College of Applied Biology (the professional association that regulates the RPBio. profession),” said the letter.

The other two are said to be unnamed members of a pro-EDPA advocacy group. The newsletter was sent to “nearly 1,000 members” of the Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA Society.

Despite being surrounded in controversy, the EDPA has survived a 2016 investigation by the Ombudsperson that questioned its implementation by Saanich staff in 2012. It also faced scrutiny from a staff-ordered economic impact report by G.P. Rollo and Associates and B.C. Assessment Authority, with a lack of evidence suggesting a significant impact to real estate values (though there are outliers).

Following a 2015 outcry regarding the EDPA (led by SCRES), which was centred on confusion regarding the bylaw’s complicated language, Saanich conducted a publicity campaign to educate the community on what options are available to residents whose properties fall within the EDPA.

One of the properties Lea supports for partial removal from the EDPA on Saturday is 2893 Sea View Rd., and includes the support of a second biologist, Jonathan Secter.

“The thing we need to be clear on is that we analyze the character of the property in the EDPA, and [from there] it’s up to the property owner,” Secter said. “We’re just there to characterize the ecological sensitivity and state of the property.”

Saanich staff recommends against 2893 Sea View property coming out of the EDPA, an example of the ongoing EDPA tug-of-war between Lea and Saanich Planning. In the application for 2893 Sea View the owners stated a desire to landscape and garden their property as they wish. However, Saanich’s report says the couple are able to continue these activities within the EDPA.