North Saanich council has reconsidered the previous decision to start drafting the Official Community Plan without housing and affordability, but deferred discussion around a potential alternative until next week.
In a 5-1 vote Monday, council approved a motion by Coun. Patricia Pearson to reconsider a previous decision to ask staff to start the process.
“It is just a willingness on the part of council to consider other options and to give it another week to consider the motions that I have crafted,” Pearson said later.
Coun. Celia Stock was the lone vote in opposition, while Coun. Jack McClintock was absent. Stock later voted with the rest of council to formally defeat the reconsidered motion and council was unanimous in deferring discussion of Pearson’s proposed alternative to Feb. 14.
Broadly summarized, Pearson’s proposed alternative calls on staff to begin drafting the OCP, but not before some engagement with OCP advisory working group, various district commissions, community associations and other representative residents.
“That would take place first, then the draft and then further engagement after that,” she said.
The new motion would see the draft OCP include all six themes – inclusive of housing and affordability – but remove some of the more controversial elements concerning in-fill housing in two North Saanich areas and zoning designations.
“It takes those off the table for now and indicates that those could come back after the draft should the new council wish to entertain those,” she said.
Pearson is hopeful her motions will win majority support.
“In crafting them, I considered the dialogue from a week ago,” she said. “It takes off some of the bigger housing issues, which I think the community will be supportive of. It allows us to move forward in a positive way and hopefully see some outcome out of this.”
Stock said council deferred the discussion to Feb. 14 because council had already met for more than three hours when the item came up.
“We had such a full agenda that everyone was getting rather exhausted and we didn’t think it was a very good opportunity or time to discuss something as important and crucial to the community as the OCP,” she said in an interview. “The OCP is such a vital document … because much of it is about land use.”
Given the important role of North Saanich within Greater Victoria as a supplier of agricultural produce, crucial and contentious land use issues should be discussed when people are alert and able to focus, Stock said.
But she thought council should have upheld its earlier decision to draft the OCP minus housing and affordability.
“Every week or two weeks, we keep prolonging the discussion and perhaps that is the nature of this OCP review … But I just thought we had a made a decision to go ahead with a draft of the OCP that would not deal with the housing part, which is really the most contentious, fraught with difficulty, portion of the OCP.”
Stock also found herself in the minority last week – as well as last July – when she and McClintock voted in favour of stopping the process. “In an Official Community Plan, the operative word is community and because of the COVID-19 pandemic – not any other reason – we have not been able to have very good or very forthright or very consuming engagement without our population, because we have not been able to hold person-to-person meetings.”
Given the nature of the OCP as a foundational policy document, the municipality should wait until proper face-to-face meetings are possible, she said.
Stock also used the occasion to reject the label that she is anti-development.
“I have never been against housing or development, which some people in the community said I am. (We) really have to think about where would we put it, how we would build it so it could be affordable, so it could be a rental, and that is a conversation that is much more complicated, much more evolved than what people are just throwing around off the cuff.”
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