A prominent community leader is calling on Saanich council to support the proposed replacement of the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA).
Writing on behalf of the North Quadra Community Association (NQCA), its president Haji Charania urged councillors to support Natural Saanich when they will resume debate on the measure July 8.
Council pressed the pause button on the debate during the early morning hours of June 11 after two-and-a-half hours of public input on a staff report that outlined the proposed work plan for the Environmental Policy Framework that appears under the label of Natural Saanich.
Natural Saanich itself consists of three major elements: a new climate plan, a biodiversity conservation plan and a stewardship program. Staff have also recommended a series of interim measures.
It represents an ambitious effort to replace the controversial EDPA that the previous council rescinded on Nov. 6, 2017 by a narrow 5-4 vote following months of emotional, frequently divisive public debate during which critics accused the EDPA of being excessively restrictive and ineffective.
Supporters, meanwhile, acknowledged some of these arguments, but recommended reform instead of rejection in stressing the need for specific legislation designed to protect sensitive environmental areas.
Charania, a longtime community volunteer involved in a number of local organizations and causes, said in his letter that NQCA’s board had passed a resolution endorsing the staff report. “We believe, the [planners] have taken sufficient time, and have responded well, to the [resolution] passed by the previous council on [Nov. 6, 2017]. The report is fairly comprehensive leading to four recommendations and a work plan to achieve goals and objectives of Natural Saanich.”
The main source of contention around Natural Saanich concerns language that it “would also consider options for a new [development permit area]” as informed by the so-called Diamond Head report, an extensive but ultimately unrealized review of the EDPA before its rescinding.
Coun. Karen Harper, a longtime critic of the EDPA, said last month that Natural Saanich would reintroduce elements of the EDPA through a back door, in signalling her opposition. Mayor Fred Haynes and Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, who once campaigned on preserving the EDPA and opposed its rescinding, also joined Harper in public opposition, arguing that Saanich should focus its efforts on public parks rather than private lands. Couns. Judy Brownoff, Nathalie Chambers and Colin Plant signaled support.