The end of the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw is one final council vote away after Saturday’s public hearing.

Mayor says it could take “years” to replace EDPA

Mayor Richard Atwell said it will take Saanich “years” to replace a bylaw designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas that is one vote away from being repealed.

Council Saturday gave two readings to a bylaw that stripped Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw provisions from the Official Community Plan.

It had received reading inDecember 2017 after council meeting as committee-of-the-whole had recommended rescinding the EDPA in October 2017.

Atwell joined Couns. Susan Brice, Karen Harper, Fred Haynes and Leif Wergeland in support, with Couns. Judy Brownoff, Colin Plant, Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders opposed.

Saturday’s vote following a public hearing requires final ratification, after which the EPDA is off the books.

Its termination will conclude a tumultuous period in Saanich’s history. Saanich had introduced the EDPA in 2012. Critics of the bylaw became more audible in 2015 when a growing number of residents started to seek relief by removing their homes from the EDPA, claiming lowered property values and bureaucratic heavy-handedness.

These efforts sparked a series of public consultations that often assumed a sharp, divisive tone, and a growing body of literature that often challenged the claims of EDPA opponents. But their political efforts gained momentum through 2016 and 2017, and coalesced in council’s narrow and ultimately unexpected decision to rescind the EDPA.

Atwell said the EDPA amounts to a “giant policy failure” that has divided the community. “Because the EDPA was established with an inaccurate map, we spent more time removing properties that should not have been included in the first place,” he said.

Once Saanich has ratified the revisions, pre-EDPA provisions will apply.

Atwell said this return to the pre-EDPA period is the “first step” towards developing a “better policy with accurate mapping that will gain social licence with residents.”

This development will take time. “We can’t rush this process,” said Atwell. “It has to be done scientifically and with proper collaboration with the community.”

Plant said the return to the pre-EDPA period will leave Saanich with a level of environmental protection that is “significantly less than what the EDPA provided” as “repeatedly” confirmed by staff.

“I acknowledge the EDPA was not working the way we wanted as a municipality, but the route forward we have chosen, in my opinion, demonstrates poor governance as we are left with less environmental protection while we search for a new way forward.”

Plant said that way forward must be inclusive and timely. “We must now find a way forward that builds community consent for a new EDPA as part of a greater biodiversity strategy. We cannot take years to do this,” he said.

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