I attended the Saanich council meeting on July 24 and listened to the presentation by Jimmy Brett Allen of Diamond Consulting on the EDPA bylaw. What was more important for me was the Q&A session that followed the presentation. So here is my perspective on the current situation with respect to the EDPA bylaw.
On Jan. 28, 2016 the executive members of the North Quadra Community Association (NQCA) passed a resolution to support the EDPA bylaw, but change and refine the administration of the bylaw. The resolution and details were presented to the committee of the whole at the meeting held on March 16, 2016.
The NQCA recommended that the current homes, accessory buildings, lawns, gardens, etc. impacted by the mapping of the EDPA bylaw should be grandfathered. That meant that anyone wanting to replace or renovate what is already there should be allowed to obtain a normal building permit without any interference from the essence of the EDPA bylaw. The homeowners should be able to enjoy whatever they currently have. Also, anyone wishing to use the existing foundation to rebuild an old home (tear down) or other structures should be exempted from the bylaw if there is no additional encroachment in the EDPA area. In addition, some flexibility in the interpretation of the EDPA bylaw, especially in the buffer areas, should be offered to preserve the current zoning value as much as possible in the single family zoned properties.
The NQCA also recommended that Saanich should pay for the ecological, biodiversity and environmental assessment to ascertain the ‘on ground’ conditions for single family zoned properties when the EDPA is impacted. That would enable Saanich to refine the mapping, but more importantly, it would provide a standardized method of evaluating/assessing what is on the ground.
And finally, the NQCA recommended that the education with respect to the intent and objectives, clarity with respect to definitions and stewardship should be encouraged and rewarded. What we meant by ‘rewarded’ was consideration of granting site variances, offering bonus density in the non-Environmental Sensitive Area of the site, perhaps offering reduction in the property taxes and/or Development Cost Charges for new development initiatives depending upon the situation and quality and quantity of stewardship.
The NQCA also supported the idea of Saanich doing its own due diligence to comply with the intent of the EDPA bylaw over a period of time on their lands. In essence, the NQCA was looking for a science-based solution and not a ‘politics’-based solution.
What I heard at the July 24 meeting made me wonder why Saanich Planning and council spent so much time and money and did not use a common sense science-based approach.
One other important point Mr. Allen mentioned a few times, and that is there is considerable polarization of this issue in Saanich. I think this polarized situation in Saanich is very unfortunate. Now Saanich Planning staff and council have an extra challenge to determine what works and what does not work.
In my opinion, Saanich Planning has more work to do and build the trust, and council has to find a solution based on science and the best practices. I am always mindful of the fact that there are no absolute rights on land, water and air; they all are regulated. The question is how those regulations are built and applied, and what values do they protect and/or enhance.
Haji Charania, president
North Quadra Community Association