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LETTER: Saanich’s local area plans in need of renewal

It should have been an easy decision on Oct. 25 for the Saanich committee of the whole, but apparently not so.

It should have been an easy decision on Oct. 25 for the Saanich committee of the whole, but apparently not so.

Council instigated a ‘pause’ in updating local area plans (LAPs) in December 2019 while a housing strategy was formulated, based on the upcoming 2020 housing needs report. This is now complete.

Now a very comprehensive report to council to vote upon reinstating the LAP updates has been presented. A ‘hybrid’ approach fully recommended by planning staff for their work plan priorities includes a strategic and focused update of the OCP (general) with recent policy updates/initiatives, concurrently with a process to update LAPs in order of expected growth. What’s not to like? As expected of them, staff also included alternatives ‘outside the LAP framework’ but for various drawbacks, they do not support these.

The report from the mayor in January 2020 promises that “it is the updating process that is paused; our current bylaws and LAP remain in effect.” The November 2020 housing needs report suggests only 600 units a year are required in Saanich, based on population growth predictions, and I do not believe we have seen any statistics to show otherwise? Yet since the ‘pausing’ of LAPs approximately 1,200 units have been approved, most with amendments to the OCP/LAP, rezonings and multiple variances for height, parking, and setbacks. There are also an additional 2,400 units proposed in planning applications submitted to Saanich since December 2019. Are overall implications on infrastructure even being considered?

The decision was made with LAPs to only “temporarily pause their renewal,” so no better time to update them before they are effectively rewritten on a piecemeal basis. We are continually being told that council relies on the advice and professionalism of their staff who have produced an excellent ‘hybrid’ plan. So with no more delay, please respect both staff and the community by reinstating these very important updates involving full participation of the community, inherent in preparation of an official LAP.

“A promise made must be a promise kept,” (Aristotle).

Fiona Millard