A local community activist questions Saanich’s decision to amend its boulevard regulation bylaw.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a Saanich resident who sits on the board of the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, said the addition of a permit process for improving local boulevards discourages community improvements.
“You want to be encouraging people to make their communities more beautiful, so that they transform space they want to spend time in it,” he said. “You don’t want to make it more difficult. This makes it more difficult.”
Saanich defines boulevards as portions of any road other than the “paved, improved or main travelled roadway, driveway, or sidewalk” under the jurisdiction of the municipality, and staff said the proposed bylaw reinforces the expectation that residents maintain boulevards.
This expectation coexists with the phenomenon of placemaking, a process that “facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution,” according to a report titled Canadian Placemaking: Overview and Action.
Examples include community gardens, impromptu side-street cafes, and little libraries like the one in Saanich’s Rutledge Park. For example, Bondaroff, along with his partner Stephanie Ferguson, has been a leading advocate for the Little Free Libraries, home-made book exchanges boxes sprinkled across the Greater Victoria area.
Chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson said Saanich recognizes the value of individuals improving boulevards through various initatives. On the other hand, it is better to approve changes at the beginning of the process rather than insist on changes after the improvement has taken place, he added.
Saanich also reserved the right to introduce a permit fee for proposed boulevard improvements, possibly within a year.
Bondaroff said this approach means Saanich fall into the middle compared to its immediate neighbours. Victoria does not require a permit for boulevard improvements and financial supports various private efforts to turn boulevards into usable public spaces, he said.
Oak Bay, on the other hand, requires individuals to submit a permit, a $100-fee, and detailed design drawings for boulevard improvements.
“If you are doing comparative analysis, Saanich now sits comfortably in the middle,” he said. “But when you are talking about barriers to place making, you should not have any barriers at all.”