GUEST COMMENT: Regional Growth Strategy ‘an incredibly difficult journey’

Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director gives his take on the RGS

By Mike Hicks

As the Regional Growth Strategy, is again in the news I would appreciate giving a brief explanation on what all the fuss is about.

The RGS bylaw was adopted in 2003 and is a blueprint for growth, transportation and land use in the Capital Regional District.

Municipalities were required in 2003 to define their urban containment boundary which could be serviced by water and have a higher density. If a municipality changed its mind and wanted to expand its urban containment boundary or water servicing area, it simply needs the majority vote of the 25-member CRD board.

The Juan de Fuca Electoral Area does not have an urban containment boundary.

As the 2003 RGS forbids the extension of water outside a containment boundary, we are not allowed to extend piped water. This applies to the main CRD system, the Kemp Lake system, Goudie Creek Shirley system and Port Renfrew system.

Unlike the municipalities requiring a majority vote of the board, the Juan de Fuca would require the almost impossible task of receiving the unanimous consent of all 13 municipalities to amend the RGS and extend water.

The CRD has been working for five years to amend the RGS. Concerning water, the new RGS states that the Juan de Fuca can extend water if the service area is defined in its OCP. North Saanich, Saanich, View Royal and Highlands have rejected the new RGS based on their belief that extending water to the Juan de Fuca would result in urban sprawl.

I have argued that our density and sprawl is determined and controlled by our OCP and zoning bylaws and that water is not a factor. I have argued that the CRD board approves our OCP and therefore controls sprawl. I have argued that Metchosin, which has the lowest growth rate in the CRD (-2 per cent over the last five years) allows water throughout its boundary and the Juan de Fuca with a growth rate of 10 per cent over the same period is forbidden water. I have also argued and believe that water is a God given right and if we can extend water to residents at no cost to ourselves we have a duty to provide that water.

The CRD has now sent the Regional Growth Strategy to the province, which will undoubtedly ask for mediation and finally binding-arbitration when mediation fails.

The system does not allow for the Juan de Fuca to participate in selecting the arbitrator nor arguing its case at the same level as the municipalities that have rejected the RGS. The CRD Board has recognized this injustice and requested the Juan de Fuca receive equal treatment and status as the municipalities. It is to be hoped the province will now include the Juan de Fuca in the process which I estimate will take at least another year and possibly two.

This has been an incredibly difficult journey and we are only at the starting gate of provincial intervention. We will see this through to the end and will always appreciate the unwavering support of the CRD board representatives, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, Sooke Coun. Rick Kasper and Sooke Council members.

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Mike Hicks is the electoral area director for Juan de Fuca on the Capital Regional District board.