Saanich council resolved to pause work on updating local area plans (LAPs) in the district during a council meeting Monday night.
The topic created some disruptions during the meeting as Coun. Nathalie Chambers spoke passionately against the pause, and meeting chair Coun. Zac de Vries tried to rein in interruptions.
“I think the result of pausing the LAPs as per the director of planning’s estimate for three years will be devastating for Saanich,” Chambers said. “Despite the fact interim measures were included in the strategic plan, they were already voted down. So there will be no interim measures in sensitive ecosystems and no environmental permits in new developments for three years in Saanich.”
Coun. de Vries said the Cadboro Bay and Cordova Bay local area plans will be completed as planned, but further updates to LAPs are on hold so council can focus planning resources on priorities and policies to increase the supply, diversity and affordability of housing in Saanich.
“Clearly our current growth model and policies have not resulted in the housing outcomes that our community wants. Housing affordability is a top issue for most Saanich residents,” de Vries said. “We have paused LAPs, which represents the status quo, in order to retool. A housing needs assessment and housing strategy in particular will expand our understanding of how housing works and how we can achieve the affordability and attainability that our residents need.”
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said the pause will be for about two years. “During that time, all locals will be engaged in ground-up discussions about housing,” Haynes said. The District will then return to updating the LAPs.
Haynes said the council has acknowledged there is a housing crisis in the District, and the pause is intended to help council respond to the crisis. “If there is a crisis, we need to know how to address it, otherwise we’re ignoring the crisis,” Haynes said. He said the council is approaching housing policy in a similar way to its approach to lowering residential speed limits: as a Saanich-wide push rather than “piecemeal”.
Saanich resident Vernon Lord said that pausing the LAPs “shows council’s disrespect for the process that previous council, residents and community associations have developed and agreed to.” He also noted Haynes stated on his campaign flyer for the 2018 municipal election that he would “ensure staff and council have resources to update the local area plans during the coming term.”
“Now we are talking about a pause. A pause that will allow development in Saanich to proceed on a global Saanich view with one goal; density and infill with limited community input,” Lord said.
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