Rally seeks to save Saanich’s EDPA

An local environmental coalition has mounted a last-ditch effort to save a controversial bylaw.

Larry Wartels, a spokesperson for Homeowners for Saanich’s EDPA, says he expects anywhere between 20 and 60 people to rally in favour of Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) as councillors prepare to confirm its end.

Wartels said Monday’s rally will take place in the foyer of Municipal Hall or on its steps, depending on the weather, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Wartels said the rally aims to show councillors that EDPA opponents represent a “small noisy minority” with “narrow special interests.”

Monday’s vote comes against the backdrop of an unscientific poll conducted by the Saanich News that shows more than three out of four participants oppose council’s move to rescind the EDPA.

Council — meeting as committee-of-the-whole last month — rescinded the bylaw 5-4. Council’s vote against the EDPA came during a public hearing scheduled to hear public input on a report recommending various improvements to the controversial bylaw that has been subject of lengthy, often divisive debate.

Critics of the bylaw say it has restricted their ability to modify their properties, and lowered their property values. Mayor Richard Atwell, Coun. Susan Brice, Coun. Fred Haynes, Coun. Karen Harper, and Coun. Leif Wergeland agreed as they voted to rescind the bylaw, which Saanich introduced in 2012 to protect environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs).

Wartels, however, disagreed with criticisms of the EDPA. “We support the EDPA as is,” he said. It protects Saanich’s green amenities, while respecting the rights of homeowners and their properties against inappropriate encroachment and speculation, he said. In fact, Wartels said it can be enhanced to award proud homeowners, who have modelled exemplary preservation.

So what who will come to the rally and what are the odds of success? Four groups — Friends of Cuthbert Holmes Park, Farmland Protection Coalition and Protect Saanich Environment, and the new Homeowners for the EDPA — representing some 1,000 names have received invitations, he said.

As for the odds, Wartels said he sees a “strong possibility” that the rally will have its intended effect in saving the EDPA.

“Only one councillor needed to switch [his or her] vote,” he said.

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