Saanich resident Kevin Cuddihy and seven other property owners are pleased after council took steps to exclude their properties from Environmental Deveopment Permit Area (EDPA) guidelines. Monday's council meeting also paved the path towards temporarily exempting single residence dwellings from EDPA guidelines until the receipt of a third party report reviewing the controversial bylaw. Final public input is still required for both measures to go through.

Saanich resident Kevin Cuddihy and seven other property owners are pleased after council took steps to exclude their properties from Environmental Deveopment Permit Area (EDPA) guidelines. Monday's council meeting also paved the path towards temporarily exempting single residence dwellings from EDPA guidelines until the receipt of a third party report reviewing the controversial bylaw. Final public input is still required for both measures to go through.

Saanich takes steps towards temporary suspension of EDPA bylaw

Single family homes to be exempt until completion of review

News Staff

A Saanich resident is praising council’s signal to exclude his and seven other properties from the provisions of a development permit bylaw designed to “protect and restore” ecological sensitive areas. Council also initiated steps towards temporarily suspending the bylaw’s application to single family dwellings as part of an ongoing review of the bylaw.

“I was very pleased our application was accepted to update the mapping,” said Kevin Cuddihy, after council voted 5-4 to exclude the properties (pending public input) from the development guidelines of the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw designed to  protect what Saanich calls Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs).

Cuddihy said during a presentation Monday evening invasive species were covering the lots seeking exclusions, adding that the logistical and financial costs of restoring the lots would be “insurmountable.”

“Yes, there are some instances of native species, but they are far and few between,” he said.

Cuddihy said during his presentation that the proposed exclusions were not trying to undermine the EDPA bylaw, which he supports in principle. In fact, Cuddihy predicted that the exclusions would improve the legitimacy of the EDPA by allowing Saanich to focus their limited resources on those areas that genuinely need protection.

Couns. Judy Brownoff, Vic Derman, Dean Murdock and Vicki Sanders opposed the proposed exclusion, still subject to a public hearing. Mayor Richard Atwell joined Couns. Susan Brice, Fred Haynes, Colin Plant and Leif Wergeland in supporting the proposed exclusion.

Council split along the same lines in taking steps towards temporarily exempting all single family dwellings from the EDPA bylaw until council receives a report from a third-party consultant and makes a decision on the future of the EDPA bylaw. This provision comes with a proviso though.  “Notwithstanding this exemption, if a single family-zoned property owner wished to rezone or subdivide their lots, the EDPA guidelines would still apply,” it reads.

Practically, the exemption means that the EDPA would no longer apply when affected homeowners bring forward applications for deck additions, renovations and additions.

“The EDPA would still apply to a significant development application,” said Paul Thorkelsson, chief administrative officer. This category of applications include subdivisions and rezoning, he said.

The temporary suspension of the EDPA still requires final approval following a yet-to-be scheduled public hearing.

The EDPA bylaw applies to both public and private properties and has caused considerable controversy since its inception five years ago. Private property owners subject to EDPA provisions such as Cuddihy have claimed that the EDPA diminishes their property values by imposing undue limits on their ability to improve their properties.

A group of property owners subject to EDPA provisions calling themselves Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA Society (SCRES) have been actively challenging the bylaw in its current form for months, if not years and perhaps secured their biggest victory so far Monday with the exclusion of the eight properties and the temporary suspension of the EDPA bylaw for single family dwellings.

Cuddihy – who is a member of the group – said he likes the intent of the temporary suspension and hopes it will help create a better bylaw.

Council approved the temporary suspension of the EDPA bylaw following a motion by Plant.

“Regardless of what side of the EDPA issue you land on, nobody would suggest that it is working effectively,” he said Tuesday. “To be clear, I have no doubt that many of the properties will again be under the cover of the EDPA but it will be done largely based on the consultant’s report we are expecting back in early summer.”

Murdock initially voiced support for Plant’s exemption motion, but eventually voted against it.

While Murdock said he is not opposed to giving affected residents peace of mind, he added that he does not have information at this stage to make an informed decision about the potential impacts of the exemption on building practices.

If Murdock questioned the process of the exemption, Derman questioned its substance. Saanich does not receive major development applications for properties subject to the EDPA, he said.

It instead tries to protect properties against the effects of minor development applications. “What that means is that protection goes away,“ he said.

Derman also said exempting single dwelling properties from the EDPA until council’s receipt of the third-party report could render its conclusions “moot” as months might pass during which an “awful lot of destruction” could take place.

“If you pass this motion, it is quite possible that those remnants [of ESAs], wherever they were, could be completely removed by the time we get a report because there is nothing to stop anybody from doing any kind of removal at all, because there is no protection.”

Plant rejected the suggestion that Monday’s vote marks the beginning of the end for the EDPA. “I believe in having an EDPA for Saanich,” he said. “I believe all of council does. The motion was explicitly clear this is temporary until we have more information about how to effectively manage Saanich’s EDPA where the residents work with Saanich to protect actual environmentally sensitive areas.”

He acknowledged that council’s decision would likely not please environmentalists. “However, there are provisions that still suggest subdivisions and rezoning applications are still covered by the EDPA,” he said. “I also have faith that residents will not go out and destroy their own properties; it goes against common sense. I would also remind everyone the EDPA bylaw did not exist prior to 2012.”