View Royal council is set to debate whether to enact a six-month moratorium on approving new development and rezoning applications after the province added the town to its list of municipalities required to meet new housing targets.
Mayor Sid Tobias is set to make the motion at Tuesday’s (June 6) regular council meeting, and said the move comes from his concern the province’s approach to addressing the housing shortage is problematic, requiring more time for his municipality to explore ways to move forward.
“Given the significant pressures we as a community are under, some describe it as a poly crisis. We have an environmental and climate emergency, a housing crisis, a primary care crisis, a phenyl crisis, and a safe drug supply crisis. We are at an inflection point,” said Tobias Tuesday ahead of the meeting. “I believe that our community planning deserves a better and more thoughtful approach in times of complexity to work with communities to build a future we all want and deserve to live in.”
He said there is certainly a need to build more housing, but he feels View Royal is already doing that with three large developments under construction now totalling 354 rental and 92 strata units, plus another four developments totalling 435 units with approved development permits. But he is concerned the province’s approach is simply encouraging building for the sake of building, without considering a community’s other needs, and the impact more building will have on infrastructure.
The proposed pause on new developments would also allow the municipality to restart its Official Community Plan update process, which was put on hold by the new council shortly after it took office over concerns the draft OCP revision produced by the previous council did not have sufficient public consultation.
Tobias said the town has also been dealing with retention issues within the town’s building department, and their long-standing chief administrative officer is set to retire.
”I think it will give us some time to evaluate the proposed legislation the province is bringing down in the fall … we need to do some modelling on what the effects will be on our infrastructure systems,” he said. “The government is citing a housing crisis, but I would say that is not the problem. There are more AirBnBs just in downtown than there are homeless people right now,” he said without offering supporting statistics.
Ultimately, Tobias said he will accept council supporting or rejecting his motion, as his ultimate goal with it is to simply spark serious debate on such an important issue for the municipality and the province as a whole.
As news of View Royal’s planned debate spread Tuesday, several municipal officials past and present weighed in on social media.
Saanich Coun. Zac de Vries tweeted that “our collective decisions matter. A moratorium on rezoning in View Royal would be utterly irresponsible.”
Former mayor David Screech also weighed in on social media, saying “given the region is in a housing crisis and View Royal has a perfectly good 2011 OCP I cannot imagine why we would need a moratorium on rezoning.”
“It really says View Royal is no longer going to be a regional player,” Screech added in a follow-up social media comment.