At least one layer of public confusion was peeled away from Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw on Monday.
The intense council session saw the properties of 4007 and 4011 Rainbow St. and 4351 Gordon Head Rd. brought forth as priority requests to be removed from the EDPA. While they weren’t immediately removed, the fact council referred all three to a public hearing is important according to Anita Bull, who spearheaded the complaints against the EDPA bylaw, which was implemented in 2012.
Bull’s family has owned the lots on Rainbow for 60 years.
Residents packed the chambers to standing room only, eager to hear council’s decision in response to staff’s report. Staff recommended not removing the trio of properties, which included a Coastal Bluff covenant for 4351 Gordon Head. The removal items took up most of the four hour, 45 minute council session, and in the end, public, council and staff showed there continues to be a divide between Saanich residents and staff over the EDPA.
With an impending third-party review of the EDPA in the works, Coun. Vic Derman motioned to postpone the property removal decisions until the review is done. That was defeated though, due to what Coun. Dean Murdock believes is council’s commitment to dealing with properties one at a time, for now.
The terms of reference for the third-party review of the EDPA was also brought forward but was deferred by council (for two weeks) because it was released too soon prior to Monday’s public forum.
Coun. Fred Haynes said the referral of the properties to public hearing does not set a precedent that properties can easily be removed from the EDPA.
“Every case will be treated individually, which is what we said at the March 16 meeting [at Pearkes], when we made a commitment to deal with each property as a council,” said Haynes, adding council is still exploring the EDPA’s complicated process.
John Alexander, a lawyer known for acting against Saanich in the past, spoke at the public forum on behalf of 4351 Gordon Head Rd. He cited a misappropriation of the EDPA bylaw onto the lot of 4351 Gordon Head Rd., owned by Charmaine and Chris Phillips.
“This property has a development permit on it already, a perpetual natural state covenant already, and in my research I can’t find connection between the documents,” said Alexander, adding he found no historical evidence staff suggested there should be a covenant.
The bylaw, in his opinion, does not ‘always’ require an EDPA permit in EDPA mapped areas.
Saanich’s biologist reports for all three properties conflict with those of biologist Ted Lea, who claims they are not worthy of EDPA status.
“I am 100 per cent convinced we need to develop a method to settle these disputes when staff (and staff-selected biologists) and the private biologists disagree on a site assessment,” said Coun. Colin Plant.
The owners of 4351 Gordon Head Rd. said they want only to rebuild on the lot, replacing the 1972-built home with one a little bigger, and not to subdivide.
Their home was recently valued by the B.C. Assessment Authority at $750,000, down from $1.7 million in 2015 due to the EDPA. An appeal brought it back to just over $1 million.
“We’ve taken a long hard road, it’s been very stressful, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Charmaine Phillips said.
The Phillips bought the property a month after the EDPA was initially implemented in 2012 and said they were unaware of the EDPA until they applied to build a new home on the lot.
“This wasn’t about a direct removal, it was about modifications to the mapping,” said Murdock. “We need a better structure in order to make that recommendation, and what we’re getting now is competing reports from biologists.
“Adding more biologists won’t solve this.”