This week, the District of North Saanich is considering significant changes to its development permit bylaw — changes that impact how and when the public can see what’s going on.
While outwardly showing they are more to accommodate minor applications that preserve natural resources and the environment, the changes also appear to apply to projects of any size and scope. Case in point being two development permits for housing projects coming before council this month.
On the surface, the proposed procedures are similar to those in place in many other municipalities — making applications for things such as residential housing more efficient and a lot faster. It would address the complaints of developers who have beseeched council to speed things up.
This has the potential to change the way people in North Saanich communicate with their political leaders and review new growth.
As the community has seen in recent months as various developers of single family homes have appeared, there is currently a lot of council input, debate and meetings when these applications come up.
The current procedure allows for this in up to four steps where an application comes before council and the public before a decision is made. This new policy would cut those to two.
What that does is potentially shorten the window for the public to see what’s being proposed before District staff can issue a development or variance permit.
Council can still ask for important applications to face further review — but it’s more important than ever for citizens to let their politicians know what they feel are important issues that require more public input.
That has always been the case with sensitive matters and this change to District procedure brings that responsibility into a sharper focus.
The new process represents a compromise with developers while not forgetting that residents of North Saanich are very interested in the goings-on at municipal hall.