Do your homework on developments

Letter to the editor regarding development permits

On Dec. 12, Saanich council approved a development permit for 4027 Rainbow St. The development permit approved was to construct two 77-unit condominium buildings on the south slope of Christmas Hill just north of McKenzie Avenue and east of Rainbow Street. This area is one of the most pristine areas of Saanich.

The entire community of Saanich should note, in 2007 residents of the North Quadra area went through an arduous approval process resulting in Saanich council approving a new comprehensive zone for a 103-unit development comprising of 12 single family dwelling lots, 27 attached dwellings and 64 apartments (condominiums) in two eight-storey buildings on a 3.89 hectare site. Attached to the proposal and rezoning approval was an amenity package agreed to between Saanich and the developer. We thought a covenant document was signed to ensure that the land would be developed, and amenity provided, as per the proposal and approval.

On Dec. 12, some three years later, the same developer, having taken the advantage of generous floor space and height allowances under the zone, applied for a development permit for 77 units instead of 64 units (20.3-per-cent increase) proposed and approved by council. The building now presented is nine storeys that, we believe, is also contrary to what was approved in 2007.

We believe by approving this development permit Saanich council has betrayed the trust and confidence of the community. The community has lost faith in the fairness in the process, and has no resources to have a neutral and competent third-party review of council’s decision.

We were most disappointed when the Mayor Frank Leonard moved that the development permit be approved based on the land use and the ‘form and character.’ That was done without commenting on the original approval and increase in the number of units and density, and without attempting to seek any additional amenity.

More unfortunate was that the rest of the council lost their independent thinking and followed the mayor. Only councillors Vic Derman and Paul Gerrard were able to recognize and acknowledge at the meeting that there was a weakness in the bylaw and the covenant was deficient.

The message to the community at large is this: Make sure that the development parameters and criteria are tightly, specifically and clearly defined and stipulated in the controlling documents such as bylaws and/or covenants. It would be unwise to rely entirely on Saanich staff or council to do that for the community.

We regret that we relied on good faith and fairness of the process. We learned our lesson. We, along with many others, will regret council’s decision for years to come.

Now that the decision is made and the development permit for a larger development is approved, we truly hope that the planning, parks and engineering staff will ensure that this (or any other developer buying the project) will meet the requirements of the development permit and will fulfill the terms and conditions of the bylaw and covenant.

Haji Charania, President, North Quadra Land Use Protection Association