How fortunate we are to still have sensitive and rare areas to protect where other municipalities do not. Saanich is blessed to have five per cent of the remaining rare Garry oak ecosystems in the region.
Garry oak meadows have been identified as the south coast ecosystem most likely to survive climate change. Louise Goulet, first executive director for the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team describes them as a “refuge that may act as a seed bank if other ecosystems (coastal Douglas-Fir, Western Hemlock) fail to adapt to the lengthening droughts and uncertain weather patterns that climate change is already bringing.”
There has been a good deal of misinformation about the EDPA bylaw as it relates to Garry oaks on private property. But, most people now understand the bylaw does not serve to expropriate a citizen’s land, turning it into a park. Nor will it prevent people maintaining and adding new structures to their properties. Three independent reports (Rollo, BC Assessment and Diamond Head) said the EDPA bylaw does not cause property values to fall. An Ombudsperson’s Report dismissed complaints Saanich failed to adequately notify owners of the bylaw it passed in 2012.
Most also understand the EDPA is a development permit area bylaw; there is no impact on single family zoned properties within the EDPA where development is not being proposed. Even so, council already removed all these properties from the bylaw regulation.
We number the many who support the intent of the EDPA bylaw. It is our hope that greater profit for a few landowners (who wish to subdivide) will not come at the cost of the permanent loss of environmentally significant areas in Saanich. And, to the dismay of landowners (like ourselves) who through efforts on our land and volunteerism in both the Tod Creek and Colquitz watersheds support conservation initiatives and protections offered by such bylaws during development.
It is our hope council will look for balance; will also listen to those who encourage you to think carefully about repealing a bylaw long in the making and which has served the municipality well.
Please, let us not be driven solely by economics, but instead also consider our community’s overall well-being and nature as a whole.
We ask council to continue to clear up misunderstandings; to not repeal, but instead ameliorate the EDPA bylaw; to implement the 15 recommendations spelled out in the Diamond Head Report.
Let us aim to educate and work towards developing a respectable regard for our environment. After what has been a prolonged and heated debate, we can together move forward and build a resilient municipality today and for the future; where nature is an integral part of our daily lives.
Carmel & Woody Thomson