The job to review Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw is now up for tender, and it’s a job that will end with someone disliking the answers.
Saanich has officially posted the request for proposals for a third-party review that will provide recommendations to council on how the current EDPA can be improved.
Council ordered the review in the spring after nearly two years of hotly contested debate, with some Saanichites saying the EDPA infringes on homeowner rights.
“As I’ve said before, I think the bylaw needs to be retooled,” said Mayor Richard Atwell. “Through this process, we’re looking for [the consultant] to come back with recommendations to make this thing work for residents. In the end, it will be back in council’s hands again to make it work for community consultation.”
Not all councillors were in favour of the review, it can be noted.
“Council heard concerns from the public about the EDPA bylaw and is taking action,” said CAO Paul Thorkelsson. “It’s important to note that Saanich is not alone in our pursuit of environmental protection. Many municipalities in B.C. have similar regulations in place.”
As part of a request for proposal process, Saanich invited a series of qualified consultants.
Proposals will be accepted until Oct. 18 and the total cost cannot exceed $200,000 without getting further approval from council. The work is to be completed within six months.
Saanich initially implemented the bylaw in 2012 after a campaign of community consultation. It is based on a framework provided by the province, as it is part of a mandate to protect B.C.’s threatened and endangered species. In Saanich, in particular, it means the remaining Garry Oak ecosystems.
From the time the bylaw was implemented in 2012, until 2014, it received little complaint. But in 2014, a group of concerned citizens emerged saying their property value has decreased. More came forward saying that they were unhappy with the development limitations placed on their lots, including restrictions and confusion around yard maintenance where there are sensitive ecosystems.
Saanich has since run a campaign to clarify the rights of owners within the district’s Environmentally Sensitive Areas atlas, where the EDPA bylaws apply.
While the debate has run hot, to date, all instances of direct monetary loss are still inconclusive.
The owners of 4351 Gordon Head Rd. did see their property value decreased from $1.7 million to $1 million by B.C. Assessment Authority. The owners were later successful in removing the protective covenant that was blamed for the assessment. However, in 2015, B.C. Assessment reviewed the sale of 98 Saanich properties with EDPA zoning and none of the searchable sale documents recorded the EDPA as having an impact.
After a public check-in process held from June of 2015 to February of this year, council found it was unable to address the issue from within. In May, council moved to hire a consultant to review the EDPA bylaw. The review will look at Saanich’s EDPA bylaw in comparison to other municipalities, and can use other resources, such as the Rollo Report, a staff-directed review from late last year.
Five per cent of private properties in Saanich are within, or partially within, the EDPA. About 52 per cent of the EDPA in Saanich is located on public land (mostly parks).
Visit Saanich.ca/edpa for more information.