Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Central Saanich Planning and Development Committee Meeting on Vantreight Proposal

I went to the meeting of the committee last night and listened to what was being said about the Hill project proposed by the Vantreights.   There were about 150 people at the meeting last night.  I was surprised at how many people came out in support of the project, it was an interesting mix of people.  There were farmers from all over the south island and advocates of food security.

The only farmers that came out opposed were the ones from Madrona farm.  They clearly want to do something different what has been done in the past with their land and want that model used elsewhere.

There is a strong opposition group from Central Saanich and from the Dean Park area of North Saanich.   The Central Saanich group is working hard to maintain the rural nature and character of Central Saanich and are very much opposed to any development outside of the urban containment boundary.

I did speak, but only to raise the issue of what most of the ALR land is used for in the region.   I have tried to make an estimate of how much ALR land in Central Saanich is actually being farmed and how much of it is just large rural estates for the richest people.

The committee has decided to send the proposal to public hearing.   The biggest change agreed to was that agreement to consolidate the remaining land in the block into two titles, one of 60 acres and the other of 175 acres with a covenant to not allow subdivision.

The opposition to the project centred around several primary issues:

  • The project goes against the OCP and RGS.   I find this very much a 'letter of the law' argument and not an argument that focuses on intent.   Interestingly Central Saanich has a zoning that would allow the development and not need a change to the OCP with the RE5 zoning option
  • The location is environmentally sensitive.   The problem with this is that the location has no current protection.   The owner could pave over the whole area slated for development.  The development offers long term protection to the most important sensitive areas.
  • Farming should not have to depend on development.   This is the argument of the economically illiterate.   Madronna farm is showing this idea of having a trust own a property and then long term lease it to a farmer is not a viable way forward because there is not enough money to repeat the model.   The people arguing this do not understand the costs involved with one small farm like the Vantreights.  
  • There were numerous people opposed that seemed to be under the impression that the land to be developed is farmland.   I do not know if this is because they are unaware of the facts or if they are grasping at something to hang their personal opposition on. 
  • One councilor, Adam Olsen, raised many issues and tried to sound like he was open minded about the project, but he came across like an insincere politician.   His issues were about the ability to service the project on site with respect to water and sewer and wanting to divorce any issues related to the economic viability of the farm from the land use issue

The council seems to be three in favour, two opposed, one in conflict of interest and one I am not sure about.   A tied vote means defeat for the project.    Because Jack Mar the mayor is in conflict, it will take four of the six remaining councilors for the project to get approval.

I will be posing more about the development as things move forward as I find it a very interesting debate in relation to community planning.   The central question is about how to best protect the future
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