With 2021 coming to an end, here are three stories to watch for in 2022.
North Saanich residents will likely learn early in January 2022 whether the municipality’s review of the Official Community Plan will continue.
Council in December deferred several key decisions around the OCP including the question of whether to fund the next stage of the process as the process faces criticism from several corners because of its perceived focus on housing at the expense of other issues.
Council instead asked staff to advance work on a draft OCP based on five themes including agriculture and local food systems, marine and natural systems, climate action, healthy communities, and jobs, but not housing and affordability, the last issue likely being the greatest cause of controversy.
Council’s decision to advance work on the OCP without considering housing and affordability also asked staff to explore a separate engagement process around those issues and report back with a revised engagement work plan for the next phase of the review and budget.
This decision means council has not yet formally approved the third phase of a process designed to engage residents. It also withholds, for now, a potential $127,000 in additional funding for the review.
Less timely, but likely no less pressing is the future of the Beacon Wharf in Sidney, where council last November voted unanimously to maintain the wharf for as long as possible without replacing it, sinking a controversial public-private partnership that would have seen a floating pontoon replace the iconic but aging facility. A group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of Sidney has since held its first meeting to discuss ways to refurbish while retaining the structure.
Nicole Bengtsson, a spokesperson for the group and an organizer of a protest in late October, said earlier that losing the iconic wharf and the buildings associated with it would undermine the historic character of the community and rob it of future economic opportunities as part of a sustainable, long-term oriented economic development model. The group plans to explore a number of funding opportunities to help retain the facility.
These issues will likely join other issues as voters across the Saanich Peninsula head to the polls on Oct. 15 to elect new municipal councils and school board members, among other offices.
Stay tuned for more election, OCP and Beacon Wharf coverage, along with breaking news, community events and the local stories you can count on reading in the Peninsula News Review.
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