Saanich council and mayor clash over rezoning

Mayor Richard Atwell says public denied a hearing on Del Monte Avenue property

Mayor Richard Atwell said he was surprised by council on Monday night with what he calls a ploy against him.

Atwell enacted a charter rule to bring a previously defeated motion back to council. It was for a proposal to rezone the one-acre Cordova Ridge neighbourhood property at 5197 Del  Monte Ave. from farmland to four single family dwelling lots.

Atwell had reason to believe the development application would pass through at this week’s council, he said, as it had come close, with a four-to-four defeat in his absence on July 4. When Atwell motioned for the vote on Monday, however, council decided eight to one against, effectively stopping that development application. Council actually tried to avoid a vote altogether, Atwell said.

“To be frank, that was a ploy and it didn’t work. They were trying to prevent a vote from occurring, but a re-vote has to happen. We should be having a public hearing on what the public thinks about [rezoning 5197 Del Monte], instead the council denied the public a public hearing,” Atwell said.

It isn’t the first time Atwell has brought a previously defeated item back to council only to have it voted down. He brought a Watkiss Way property back to council in July 2015 so it could be forwarded to CRD as a potential sewage treatment. Council voted against the motion.

Atwell remains supportive of the 5197 Del Monte development application, which remains stalled and will need to be revised if it is to come before council again.

“If I was bringing something like this before council I would have talked to other councillors first, but he didn’t talk to me,” said Coun. Fred Haynes, who was one of the four councillors to change their vote since July 4, with Couns. Colin Plant, Leif Wergeland and Susan Brice.

Of the four, only Plant said he talked to the mayor ahead of Monday, letting him know he had changed his mind.

Haynes changed his opinion, he said, after a site visit to Del Monte Avenue.

“I’ve learned that neighbours have been consistent that they’d accept three lots instead of four, which is also what the four opposed councillors have maintained,” Haynes said. “It’s clear to me it will be better accepted at a public hearing as a three-lot proposal than four lots.”

Brice said she voted against the item this time because there wasn’t any new information, which is typical when revisiting an item, she said.

“I respect the decision we made, we had quorum at the time [and this time],” Brice said.

The owners of the property, who said they plan to invest the proceeds into their dairy farm in Cobble Hill, didn’t comment this week other than saying they were unaware it had returned to council on Monday.

“It was one of the more interesting [council] situations I’ve been part of, the first time in 20 years I’ve seen something like it,” Wergeland said.