In the sumer of 2017, the regular dog walkers of Cordova Bay Beach gathered over 100 names on a petition to ask council to increase the summer dog walking hours by one hour (to be off the beach by 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.). We assured council that we were good citizens on the beach, picking up the garbage and alerting authorities to any problems that had occurred overnight, and we noted that there were very few, if any, others on the beach before 11 a.m. in the summer months. The petition was submitted in September 2017.
In November, Saanich council replied to our request in the negative. In their letter detailing the reasons for their refusal, they stated, “Saanich would require community consultation to consider this request, not only for Cordova Bay but likely Cadboro Bay/Gyro Park as well. The existing time exemption was a result of lengthy and often divided community consultation that concluded in 2011… The feasibility of conducting a community consultation process before the date the petition requests, May 1, 2018, is not possible with current priorities and capacity.”
One could state that community consultation is a good process by which to maintain democratic decision making of our elected representatives. However, I have seen a very different process in effect regarding a recent, and much more contentious, Saanich council decision. As a homeowner, who is in very close proximity to the plaza, I would have thought that Saanich, at a minimum, would have surveyed all those living on Cordova Bay Road and on the side roads adjacent to the plaza to hear their concerns. However, Saanich council did not survey the surrounding neighbourhood for their opinions, but had polls brought to them by the developer, the Cordova Bay Association and the Cordova Bay Vision group.
As I believed the plaza development would have a significant and direct impact on my home and community, I closely followed the development approval process. I attended all the open information meetings associated with this proposed development, including the final council meeting for the consideration of the developer’s plans. There were multiple presentations from individuals and groups expressing the community’s desire for a low-rise complex to better fit the flavour of the neighbourhood, a strong desire as expressed in the current existing Village Vision, and a need for Saanich to address community traffic concerns in advance of the approval. A detailed powerpoint presentation of a poll done by a citizens’ group showed close to 80 per cent disapproval or concerns with the development proposal.
I was shocked, therefore, when the developer’s plans were approved by council (except for the mayor) immediately, without even a day’s consideration, following such a contentious council meeting. I feel that the lack of desire of Saanich council to discuss and consider all of the presentations of that meeting further, showed a pre-determined outcome and a total lack of respect for the individuals in the community who took the time to express their strong views opposing the plans as they were laid out. It would seem that council, not having done its own survey of Cordova Bay citizens, simply chose to accept whoever’s poll supported their intended decision. I guess we should thank Saanich council for not coming to such a rash decision regarding an extra hour of dog walking time.