Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Central Saanich Council Approves Bylaw for Vantreight Hill Project

At the council meeting last night the Central Saanich council passed the bylaw that was needed to move the Vantrieght Hill Project forward.    This is very good news for protecting farming and farmland in this region and it places housing where it belongs - on a rocky outcropping with very low environmental values.

There is a a threat of some sort of legal action against the bylaw because opponents argue the project goes against the Central Saanich OCP.    This action will only cost Central Saanich needless money for lawyers against a frivolous lawsuit.   I hope the judge has good sense to award full costs to Central Saanich when the case is dismissed.

So why is it not in contravention of the OCP?

First, it is by definition a rural zoning and therefore in keeping with the OCP.    The density of the housing is not dissimilar to what has bee allowed elsewhere in Central Saanich in rural areas and in a number of cases on agricultural land.

Second, the OCP calls for the protection of farms and farmland.   Severing the 32 acres of the hill from the agricultural land in the same lot is good because unfarmable land connected to ALR lands causes financial problems for farms.  

The bylaw also makes the existing farm more financially viable and thereby fulfills the OCP vision of protecting the rural and farming history of the municipality.

Finally, the consolidation of the ALR lots into two of the largest lots in Central Saanich and attaching a no subdivision covenant to this will do more protect farming in this region than any other action taken by any government or group in more than a generation.    If Central Saanich had 'bought' this consolidation and covenant, they would be looking at a bill in the excess of $10,000,000.   This act alone is the single action that most expresses the OCP than anything that has happened to date.

I know some of you are wondering if the loss in value of the land is not counter intuitive if the Vantreights needed to develop the land to protect the financial security of the farm.   Losing land value certainly will restrict how much money the family can borrow in the future, but the big issue at the moment is enough cash to pay off debt the farm is carrying.  The Hill project brings in the cash to dramatically reduce their debt.

The consolidation may be a large loss in land wealth by the family, but it will also keep the value of the land lower in the future and will make it easier for the farm to pass to the next generation when the time comes.

I assume that the first act in any legal action will be to seek an injunction.   Even if the opponents had a case, since nothing physical is happening, there is no case for an injunction to be granted.   Since it is clear that the bylaw does not contravene the letter or spirit of the OCP, there is no case to be made.   As of this time no one has come forward with any counter argument to the points I have made as to why this project is within the OCP.
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