A group of North Quadra residents are celebrating Saanich’s decision to turn a subdivision proposal, but caution that more needs to be done to protect green space.
Saanich staff have informed Love Developments that their plans for a subdivision on Milner Avenue cannot go ahead as proposed in requesting changes to their original submission.
Initial plans called for 12 units on land once subject to the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw, a bylaw designed to protect ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs) but rescinded in November 2017 following years of controversies.
Saanich had introduced the EDPA in 2012 to protect ESAs, but critics of the bylaw say it restricted their ability to modify their properties in lowering property values.
According to the official description, the applicant plans to consolidate four existing lots on Milner Avenue, then subdivide them. But documents show Saanich staff concerned about the potential impact of the development following an internal preliminary environmental and social review of the site, which includes a sensitive Garry oak ecosystem.
“This proposal is viewed as highly overdensified for the sensitive and valuable ecosystem present,” it reads. “Would like to see a proposal that includes fewer lots, greater protection of the QEP [Qualified Environmental Professional] identified sensitive areas and perhaps includes a larger common area protected under natural state covenant, and a restoration plan.”
Stefanie Cepeda, a spokesperson for residents opposed to the development, cheered Saanich’s decision, but added that the issue not yet settled in describing Saanich’s decision as a “modest win” as the fight for protection continues.
“We still have work to be done to ensure this area is protected,” she said. “Our group (Saanich Citizens for Green Communities) is encouraged by this development but are still gathering support to ensure greater protection for the Garry Oak ecosystem and to ensure the subdivision matches the natural character of the neighbourhood.”
The group opposed to the development has recently expanded its efforts by launching a petition under the group name Saanich Votes for Nature that asks signatories to commit themselves to “voting for candidates who will KEEP SAANICH GREEN” in the upcoming municipal election Oct. 20, one of at least two online petitions calling on officials to protect green space.
“Saanich Votes for Nature is unifying Saanich residents concerned with preserving neighbourhood green spaces and natural environments into a movement to vote for candidates committed to protecting our green space in the upcoming Saanich municipal election,” she said.
Cepeda said the group has received responses from several candidates in the upcoming election outlining their commitment to green spaces.
“We’ll be sharing those responses with people who’ve signed on to the petition to help educate voters and elect a Saanich council committed to keeping Saanich green,” she said.
The Saanich News reached out to a representative of the developer, but did not receive a reply by deadline.