A special council meeting scheduled for Nov. 22 will consider next steps in the controversial, often heated review of North Saanich’s Official Community Plan spelling out future land use in the community.
At the 7 p.m. meeting council will consider revisions to the summary of the engagement process and policy directions distilled from it, among other topics. The summary submitted by consultant MODUS in the summer drew sharp criticism from the Save North Saanich advocacy group and residents at large, with critics accusing the Vancouver-based company of being unaware of the community and undermining its rural character through its six broad-themed concepts.
Those concepts included sensitive infilling to supply more diverse forms of housing, including for seniors to age in place; a community hub in the Deep Cove neighbourhood, and the development of a village centre around the McTavish and East Saanich roads intersection.
Critics including former mayor Alice Finall have also accused council of not being transparent and in the pockets of the development community, charges openly challenged by some (but not all) members of council.
As hundreds of protesters stood outside municipal hall in July, a motion to stop the process failed, but council nonetheless passed a series of measures that have already led to substantive and procedural changes in the overall review process.
For example, a workshop in September concluded with council asking for revisions to the concepts of sensitive in-filling and the Deep Cove community hub, among the main ideas facing community opposition. Members of the community-based OCP advisory working group have also played a more instrumental role.
Council, meanwhile, also promised more face-to-face, rather than virtual, engagement opportunities. Monday’s meeting will see information presented about the third phase of the engagement process, as well as the revised work plan and OCP budget changes.
The criticisms concerning the substance and process of the OCP review co-exist with growing, and increasingly public concerns about North Saanich’s affordability for younger families and its place in the face of broader regional demographic and economic challenges.
Groups such as Save North Saanich see the OCP review as the thin wedge of a process that will lead to more urbanization. Critics of that group accuse its members of NIMBYism and selfishly pulling up the metaphorical draw-bridges to development and density, despite documented housing shortages and climate change pressures.
While it is hard to measure the support of each camp among residents-at-large, the public discourse has been heated, even divisive, especially online.
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