North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones said staff are reviewing the future of two areas currently considered neither urban nor rural in commenting on the future of the Official Community Plan review.
He made these comments in an interview while expanding on his inaugural address. Residents had spoken clearly about their want to maintain North Saanich as a “rural oasis,” he said. “To accomplish this, I look to contain the urban containment boundary at the current boundary with Central Saanich and Sidney, support the vision of the Regional Growth Strategy and grow North Saanich in a sustainable way that enhances our rural roots.”
Jones’ comments raise questions about the future status of two areas of North Saanich — Area 1 (McTavish) sandwiched between Sidney and Central Saanich with East Saanich Road as its main thoroughfare and Area 2 (Tsehum) bordering Sidney with McDonald Park Road as its main thoroughfare.
The current OCP, adopted in 2007, spells out future land uses and designates both as multi-family affordable housing to accommodate for future housing needs. Patrick Oystryk of MODUS, the consultant handling the current review, said neither is in nor out of the Capital Regional District’s Regional Growth Strategy. In other words, they are not classified as rural or urban, which creates uncertainty about how the OCP should address these areas.
“The current OCP land use designation applied in these areas is multi-family affordable housing that allows up to (three)-storey apartment buildings and the housing units must be 100 per cent affordable,” said Oystryk. “However, since its inception, not a single unit of affordable housing has been built under this designation.”
Much (but not all) of the controversy around the OCP has centred around the question of how much additional development those areas can and should absorb against the backdrop of local housing shortages. Other voices have argued that North Saanich does not face a housing shortage and additional development would threaten its status as a rural redoubt.
“We are working that out right now,” Jones said when asked what his statement meant for those areas. “I have given my opinions to staff and I have asked them to come back with responses as to how we could accomplish this so that there is no negative effects on the residents in Areas 1 and 2.”
When asked about the role of the Capital Regional District, Jones said he will talk to regional officials. “My understanding initially is that there is no push by the Regional District to change the urban containment boundaries as they exist,” he said. Ultimately, Jones insisted that the properties will no longer be in limbo after the new OCP. “They will be like all of North Saanich, which is outside the urban containment boundary.”
Jones’ inaugural address did not repeat his earlier promise to suspend the OCP process for two months, raising the question of whether the suspension is still on. “I have already mentioned it to staff and staff has to come back to council and myself,” he said.
Council is currently waiting for a brief from the chief administrative officer Tim Tanton, said Jones, adding that he has had no discussion with MODUS. “I did speak with staff about what MODUS apparently said and staff will be talking to MODUS to find out what was said,” Jones said. “And I would assume over the next week or two at max, I will ask for a copy of the MODUS contract … and also get a briefing from staff (about) what MODUS meant by that statement.”
Oystryk said earlier that the contract with North Saanich does not speak to the issue of suspension, adding that both sides can agree to such a move.
Jones said he briefly spoke with Tanton about the OCP suspension a week prior to the inauguration. “I did not ask him for a response, it was simply a heads-up that question will be coming so that they could prepare the documentation that will be necessary for myself and council to look at.”
When asked about the likelihood of a suspension, Jones said he will be pushing for it strongly. “Having dealt with OCPs for 22 years across Canada, I believe I am on strong footing in what I am asking for, but without seeing the contract first, I can’t comment with regards to strength (of the demand).”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.