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LETTER: Saanich needs updated Local Area Plans to protect community’s wishes

To say it is demeaning and demoralizing when Saanich council approve agendas before them without respecting the wishes of the community is an understatement. This was evident in December 2019 when council (except Couns. Brice, Brownoff and Chambers) voted to pause the study of new Local Area Plans (LAPs) for the district. Some residents and all but one community association (Prospect Lake) were against this, but were summarily disregarded.

LAPs, unless silent on an issue, take precedence over all other plans in a community, and are vital in maintaining the integrity of local character; they encompass not only housing but many other disciplines in sync with Saanich and the overarching Official Community Plan (OCP) vision. In an LAP’s preparation, there is full consultation and participation between the district and communities.

Now, with only older LAPs to ensure compliance, the word is out. Developers are presenting piecemeal projects out of character with a neighborhood, including unjustified and often extreme amendments to LAPs and land use zoning with variances. This effectively rewrites our Local Area Plans project by project.

This is the case in a recent approval of a development permit in Cordova Bay, where a non-conforming four-storey building was proposed, in an area of existing one- and two-storey residences. Does 70 per cent of neighbouring residents against the proposal as presented, and withdrawal of support by the local association, have no weight?

Also for the sake of the community and all concerned, including council, was not the timing of the project public hearing unfortunate? Could it not have waited, when in this case the presentation of the new draft Local Area Plan to council is just a month away?

Fiona Millard