Friday, 11 July 2014

Housing Consultations History - the Real Story

Housing Consultations History

While higher-density development proponents claim that the community has been consulted many times in the past 10 or so years, and that the community has supported the proposed densities, it is worthwhile to look at the facts about those consultations to get the full picture.

The Facts:

August, 2003: North Saanich adopts the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS):

Including, (from page 31):

    • Agreement to retain rural character and safeguard environmental quality. 
    • External demands for housing growth are not accommodated.  
    • NS chooses to be a Rural/Residential community with development to stay within designated capacity limits at this date.
    • Reinforces the RGS goal of keeping urban settlement compact and protecting Rural Resource lands.

2003:  Questionnaire is circulated to North Saanich Households from Official Community Plan (OCP) Review Committee.

December 2003 – Review Committee reports to Council
390 responses received
  1. regarding long term development – 71% of responses supported retaining rural quality
  2. regarding housing:
·       5% (20 responses) supported higher density
·       9% (36 responses) supported addressing seniors’ needs (not necessarily higher density)
·       8% (33 responses) multi-family
It should be noted that current high-density proponents have characterized the above as “strong support for increased densities”.
In addition, 3% (12 responses) wanted lower density – that is, no more increases.

2004 – Community Advisory Committee established to consider vision statement and make recommendations to Council; conducted several community meetings and meetings to consider and assess results, reporting to Council in November, 2004.  Approximately 15 committee members facilitated by Cornerstone developed the visions.  Council adopted recommended visions in current OCP.

 Note especially:

    1. Main/cornerstone vision: that North Saanich retain the present rural, agricultural and marine character.  Removed reference to development so as not to weaken statements of North Saanich’s fundamental character.
    2. Vision 6 – That the District of North Saanich ensure that the long-term residential development of the community will retain the current neighborhoods while responding to the need for seniors and affordable family housing.

2004 – 2006 – ongoing consideration of OCP changes.  Extensive community consultation, drafts of OCP considered.  Change of Council December 2005 extended process.

June 13, 2006 – Council meeting to consider draft OCP at that date which included “village centres”; these would allow high density at whim of Council.  More than 850 people attended, 58 spoke.  Residents overwhelmingly opposed to increased densities and village centres.  These provisions were removed and the present OCP unanimously adopted in May 2007 with the current Regional Context Statement.
September 2007 – Council conducted an Ipsos Reid Survey of residents. 
    • Most important concern expressed by residents: unplanned growth.
    •  Second most important concern:  inadequate communication by municipality with residents.

December 2007Council commissioned a Housing Needs Assessment, done by City Spaces, following OCP provisions to consider policies for Seniors, Affordable, Special Needs housing. 
Addressed Vision Statements 6 and 8 of OCP. 
No community consultation. 
Identified affordability criteria and parameters in NS as well as the need for policies. 
Did not consider RGS nor Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. 
Sole basis for suggesting that NS had insufficient housing choices was that it had fewer than many communities of similar size. 
No consideration of symbiotic planning with Sidney.

June 2008 – Council hired City Spaces to conduct consultation on a housing strategy, resulting in ten recommendations including secondary suites, and cottage/caretaker houses. 
    1. Recommendations 5, 6 and 7 were refused by Council of the day (this was at the end of Daly’s mayoralty).
    2. Recommendation no. 5 – smaller lots recommended on assumption that higher density would lower prices.  Subsequent development didn’t support this assumption.  (See Mills and West Saanich Road development, Cresswell development, condo at corner of McTavish and Lochside – all higher density without increased affordability.)
    3. Recommendation 6 and 7 were based on conditions that these higher densities be accepted only if consistent with RGS and further suggested policies for below-market component, rental component and workforce component.  (It should be noted that although the consultant for CTQ Consultants, Mr. Grifone, was instructed in his 2012/2013 consultation to consider Recommendations 5,6 and 7 in his consultation, none of these conditions were addressed by Grifone.)

Council of late 2008 refused these recommendations because of the inconsistency with the new OCP and the RGS.  The following Council (2008-2011) did not revive them for similar reasons and because there was no community pressure to do so.  The majority of that Council ran on the basis of support for the OCP and RGS as well as planned development within those contexts. 

Mayor Finall’s concern with increasing densities was part of her campaign in 2008 and she defeated incumbent-mayor Daly on this basis by a margin of 430 votes, receiving the highest number of votes a mayor has received in this municipality.

The present Council majority revived these three recommendations out of the blue, with no advance warning in campaigns.


2012 – 2013:  Grifone (CTQ) consultation – Consultant was instructed to do a review of where higher density might be considered if residents supported this. The deficiencies of this consultation have been reviewed, but it does refer often and consistently to the need for affordable housing.  This consultation did not address the NS role in RGS.  In August, 2013, pro-development Council majority walked out of meeting where the consultant was available to answer questions about his recommendations, denying quorum and ending the only opportunity for Council and residents to ask him for details and rationale for his recommendations.  Though he has been asked, he has not:
             Furnished any raw data or lists of who was consulted;
             Made himself available to answer any questions that Council or residents may have.

There has been no community consultation about the recommendations.  Council adopts report and begins to implement recommendations.

North Saanich Residents Association (NSRA) Survey (2013) -- available to all community members to complete, continues to show majority support for present OCP and levels of density.

Summary:

Councils have listened to residents through the years and responded with the current OCP.  As the above information shows, the suggestion that there have been many consultations demanding higher densities which have been ignored is simply a fiction.

As to the current pressure for increasing residential densities, and the two areas where urbanization is planned, residents have not been consulted at all on these specifics and efforts to have that consultation have been refused.