As a resident of rural Saanich, outside the urban containment boundary, I was taken aback to read the Aug. 3 editorial opinion that some efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing ‘are being choked off by the district’s agricultural roots.’ I would have thought that those agricultural roots are an asset to be valued and enhanced, rather than seen as an impediment to development. Surely we are going to need any and all agricultural potential, especially located near urban centers, as development continues unabated in all other areas.
I also do not think that the urban containment boundary’s sole value was to protect agricultural land and encourage density outside that area. In addition to protecting our food growing potential (even if it is not farmed today, it remains available for the future), the Rural Saanich Local Area Plan, still in effect, strongly suggests that such areas offer many other very valuable attributes, valuable to the whole area, not just to Rural Saanich. Among these are extensive tree cover (hopefully bolstered by Saanich’s tree bylaw), relatively protected intact and remnant habitats for many species both endangered and not, as well as watersheds, lakes and streams, plus a wide range of rural recreational opportunities such as parks, biking, riding and walking as well as market, vineyard and farm experiences. All of these easily accessible aspects of rural life will become more and more important as pressures for development continue. They need to be protected and enhanced.
A word on septic systems too: many of us are quite happy with our septic systems, and those that work well should not be trashed in favor of ‘modern sanitary systems’, for which one might read ‘an opening to subdivision and development’. Saanich has adopted a well monitored maintenance program and we certainly comply.
If the Victorian experience has any applicability, it sounds like there would be enough units of housing if they were indeed affordable and not way out of most peoples’ range, or actually in the fast growing off shore luxury category. So rather than eating away at the rural areas of Saanich for development which may or may not address the affordable housing issue, perhaps there are other options. Make sure that a significant amount of new housing is truly affordable. Look into secondary suites where it makes sense to do so. Strengthen the enforcement of the tree bylaw. Keep land in the ALR. Improve the Pat Bay Highway. Calm traffic so that rural roads are shared with other users. Enhance the ways in which everyone can enjoy the fast disappearing rural ways of life on the peninsula, rather than taking a short sighted view that development is a better land use. Maybe development is doing the choking, especially when it does not meet our needs, and not our agricultural roots.