North Saanich council Monday will decide whether to give final approval to this dock in the Deep Cove neighbourhood. Area resident Paul Casson says council would set the wrong precedent by approving it. (Paul Casson/Submitted).

North Saanich resident stages final appeal in dock fight

Deep Cove man fears dock approval sets wrong precedent

A North Saanich resident has issued a last-minute appeal for council to reject the rezoning in a Deep Cove neighbourhood which he says would set a dangerous precedent.

Council last month gave first and second reading to an application that would rezone portions of the marine foreshore and water surface at 10974-B Madrona Drive to permit the siting and use of a private floating dock linked to an existing shed that is legal but of non-confirming use.

The application will be back before council Monday and Paul Casson hopes that at least two councillors will flip their votes after first two readings went through 5-2 with Couns. Jack McClintock and Patricia Pearson opposed.

Casson said if council approves the rezoning, it would set a precedent before council reviews shoreline development policies as part of its marine policy planning project review, an extensive project to “assess evaluate and plan” for the expected effects of rising sea levels and the likely consequences on local shorelines.

Casson feels council should not make that decision until that process has unfolded, afraid council’s decision could signal the start of turning local shorelines into those resembling nearby Piers Island.

RELATED: North Saanich braces for higher tides

Casson also said that the dock would undermine his views of Deep Cove, as well as the worth of this property.

“But the big issue here is not just how it affects me and my two immediate neighbours to the right, but it is about what our gorgeous, beautiful waterfront that we are so lucky to have, will look like in the future,” he said.

Barrie Rogers, an avid boater, purchased the property last year with an eye toward mooring his vessel there. According to Rogers’ representative, local planner Deane Strongitharm, he replaced a pre-existing, dilapidated dock with a new dock and a ramp to ensure safe access. “It was only after the dock was installed that it came Mr. Rogers’ attention that there was a zoning issue,” Strongitharm said last month.

Strongitharm confirmed staff’s report that he became aware of the issue after neighbours had filed a bylaw complaint. Strongitharm said Rogers cut the dock length in half to bring it into compliance.

“The owner was unaware that zoning would interfere with the work undertaken, given that the infrastructure had been in place for so long, the dock has been placed in different configurations over the years, and an established provincial tenure was in place, authorizing its use for private moorage,” Strongitharm said in a letter.

The public heard last month that the rezoning to M5 to M6 would regularize the new floating dock and ramp, while the existing pier and boathouse would remain subject to the M-6 zoning.

In the end, a majority of councillors agreed with the request, even as some including Coun. Murray Weisenberger expressed some reservations. The applicant’s move could encourage others to go ahead with projects that run against bylaws, then ask for forgiveness later, he said. This said, he acknowledged the difference between theory and day-to-day practice.

Mayor Geoff Orr also acknowledged this difference and praised Rogers for the steps he took after the issue arose.

Others were less forgiving. Pearson said it is up to applicants to do their due diligence, a point echoed by McClintock.

Pearson also said last month that the application could set a precedent for future comparable applications. While not necessarily a bad development, the issue requires a broader discussion.

While Coun. Celia Stock voted in favour of the application, she too worried about the long-term effects of the decision.

“I have had several people say this to me, ‘we don’t want North Saanich waterfront look like Piers Island with all these docks coming out from waterfront properties,” she said.

Council gave the application first and second reading during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, a circumstance that also led to the waiving of the public hearing. The municipality instead expanded the notification radius in accepting written submissions.

Casson, not surprisingly, has been compiling an extensive catalogue of documents to sway councillors at the last minute. That arsenal of evidence includes a 2016 photo which Casson says undercuts the claim that a dock had existed at the site before.

“There was no pre-existing floating ramp-dock or ramp and I have pictures to show that,” he said.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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