Coun. Nathalie Chambers joined Coun. Judy Brownoff in voting against a subdivision project that critics say will encourage urban sprawl in a rural area and undermine efforts to flight climate change. Supporters say the subdivision fill create more affordable housing, while sustaining farming operations. (File photo)

Coun. Nathalie Chambers joined Coun. Judy Brownoff in voting against a subdivision project that critics say will encourage urban sprawl in a rural area and undermine efforts to flight climate change. Supporters say the subdivision fill create more affordable housing, while sustaining farming operations. (File photo)

Saanich council approves rural subdivision despite staff and public opposition

Critics say it will lead to urban sprawl, while supporters cite the need for housing

Objections from staff and a majority of speakers during a public hearing did not stop Saanich council from endorsing plans for a new subdivision at the very edge of the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB).

With Couns. Judy Brownoff and Nathalie Chambers opposed, council voted 7-2 in favour of plans to rezone, then subdivide portions of 3989 Holland Ave. in the Blue Ridge area, citing the need for additional housing. Pending fulfillment of a covenant, this vote paves the way for a project whose critics fear will undermine agriculture and green space in Saanich.

Holland Road resident Sue Henry said the development encourages urban sprawl and threatens the integrity of the UCB in violation of the Official Community Plan. Worse, she suggested, it sets a precedent for comparable developments elsewhere, a claim staff later rejected.

RELATED: Saanich postpones plans for rezoning and subdivision over Garry oak trees

Critics focused on the issue of buffering by pointing out that filling in part of the lot with three additional homes — albeit on smaller lots — would take away an ecological buffer, while also raising the threat of rural-urban conflict.

The family submitting the application farms portions of the the property west of the proposed subdivision, with a family-owned dwelling separating the farmed land from the proposed residential area. The family, who plans to replace the existing home with a new home, has promised to maintain a buffer separating their future new home and the farmed land.

But this promise did not ease Brownoff’s concerns. This development is not about housing but about buffering for farming, she said. “This is a small enclave, so I do not support reducing the lot size to RS-6 around farming zones, because of impacts and complaints.”

RELATED: Protecting farmland, but at what cost?

The public also heard concerns about the loss of trees, with seven out of 15 identified trees coming down. While the applicant has promised to replace the lost trees by a two-to-one ratio, Saanich staff said in their formal opposition to the project that the loss of established urban canopy would undermine the environment and efforts to fight climate change.

Staff also initially doubted whether the applicant could fulfill promises to protect remaining trees as the development would require blasting to extend various municipal services to the subdivision.

“Although [staff] is in support of the covenant areas, they are of the opinion that extraordinary measures will be required to achieve retention of the trees during servicing and house construction,” it reads.

Chambers picked up on these points when she accused project supporters of hypocrisy, noting Saanich had rejected a comparable proposal in 2008, albeit outside the UCB, only to bring it back now, weeks after the region had declared a climate change emergency.

RELATED: Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

“Bio-diversity does not become any less important in a climate change emergency,” she said. “In fact, it becomes more.”

Using rural land for housing undermines the health and food security of all Saanich residents, even if it creates in-fill housing with secondary suites, said Chambers, citing her credentials as an organic farmer. “I’m not a farmer who would ever cut down trees,” she said.

Supporters of the project, however, pointed out that the area has already experienced in-fill. Admitting that the decision is difficult, Coun. Karen Harper said the project, albeit small, will encourage a diversity of housing in an area inside the UCB awaiting development.

Coun. Ned Taylor acknowledged the loss of green space, but based his support on the need for more affordable housing. The three lots and the homes that will stand on them will be small and more affordable, he said.

Mayor Fred Haynes also defended the project, saying that it gives the applicant some equity to continue farming.

“What I see here is an opportunity to support a family that has come from farming in their homeland and wants to continue farming in Canada to help us deal with the climate change emergency, the need for local food, the need for local agriculture,” he said in reference to the fact that the family will continue to farm portions of the lot.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

The University of Victoria has said some of its students were impacted by an off-campus exposure to COVID-19 last weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria students impacted by off-campus COVID-19 exposure

UVic has not specified where the exposure occurred

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Cleanup happens after an overnight flood Monday damaged areas of the Oaklands Community Centre. (Facebook/Oaklands Community Association)
Greater Victorians offer flood of support to Oaklands Community Centre

Blown hot water tank Monday night leaves staff cleaning up soggy mess

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read