Residents of Saanich’s Falaise neighbourhood applaud the temporary postponement of plans for a subdivision, but also acknowledge that their efforts to preserve four Garry oak trees may fail.
“It’s a partial victory for the neighbourhood, but it is an indication that the council is still willing to go ahead with a rezoning [and subdivision] subject to a re-worked proposal, ” said Stuart Macpherson, a board member of the Falaise Community Association. “It was disappointing that they didn’t have a discussion on the merits of rezoning.”
He made those comments after Saanich council, meeting as committee-of-the-whole, considered a proposal from Kors Development Services to rezone an agricultural lot in the 800-block of Falaise Crescent immediately south of Falaise Park into a residential lot and subdivide it.
If approved, the application would create one additional lot for a total of two lots zoned RS-10. An existing single family home would make room for two homes, leading to the loss of four Garry oak trees.
Speaking for the property owners, Denise Kors said the proposed development would be consistent with the surrounding neighbourhood and create in-fill housing in the Urban Containment Boundary close to transit, schools, and shopping. The Broadmead shopping centre lies within walking distance. Kors also said during her presentation that the design of the homes aims to minimize the loss of trees on the property itself and as well as neighbouring properties including the park.
Saanich staff said the applicant’s approach towards tree preservation would “likely have the least impact” to trees on the site.
This said, several area speakers lamented the potential loss of trees, calling on Saanich to minimize the effects.
“Those four trees are really important to the whole economy system,” said Bob Lucy, another director with the community association. “Cutting down four trees and plugging the hole with a house is really interfering with what is going on with the eco-system.”
For Macpherson, this proposal is an example of how the local Garry oak ecosystem is dying by a thousand cuts.
Arguments such these eventually convinced council to ask the applicant for a revised proposal in postponing plans for a public hearing, against the back-drop of growing concerns about the loss of Saanich’s tree canopy and climate change.
But the public also heard that the current zoning permits property owners to build a single home on the lot with a maximum gross floor area of 1035 square-metres, three times the size of the two proposed dwellings. In short, residents could end up with a far larger home if the rezoning and subdivision do not go through.
While Macpherson acknowledges that argument, he considers it a “a bit of a scare tactic.”
Macpherson would like to see Saanich purchase the property and add it to the park. “I think it is a debate worth having.”