Saanich residents hoping to see local area planning resume can mark their calendars for September.
Tensions were high on Monday (March 1) as council voted 5-4 in favour of forwarding discussions about unpausing the local area plan (LAP) updates to the next strategic plan check-in set to take place this fall. Mayor Fred Haynes and Couns. Zac de Vries, Karen Harper and Ned Taylor were opposed.
Coun. Nathalie Chambers, who made the motion, emphasized that she brought the matter to council after hearing from residents concerned about changes in their communities that they felt weren’t in line with the LAPs.
This created “neighbourhood disharmony” and a growing fear the pause would be indefinite, she said, adding that council’s role is to balance policy, strategic priorities and the will of residents, so if community members feel the carpet has been pulled from under them, something is wrong.
De Vries opposed the motion because he felt it was redundant and only served to delay the unpausing of LAP updates.
The pause was implemented in December 2019 – despite dissent from some on council and in the community – so the district’s planning resources could be focused on completing several different studies looking at housing supply, diversity and affordability, he explained. Staff have been working to complete a provincially-mandated housing needs assessment, a housing strategy task force, the development of a housing strategy and a review of the district’s delivery of planning services – all of which will be finished by June.
Upon initiating the pause, council agreed to look at resuming the LAP updates once these four documents were completed and those who voted against Chambers’ motion voiced confusion saying it would delay the unpausing by three months.
De Vries felt it would be best for council to look at resuming LAP updates in the summer, and despite Monday’s vote, he plans to initiate such discussion upon completion of the four reports as planned.
“I don’t see the rationale in delaying,” he said, adding that waiting longer would be a mistake.
Chambers emphasized that the goal was not to delay until September, but rather to guarantee that the pause would not be indefinite. Sending the matter to the next strategic plan check-in served to set the conversation in stone, she said, noting she would still be happy to see it brought to council before then.