Friday, 14 November 2014

Waterfront Property Owners and Team North Saanich

Waterfront Property Owners and Team North Saanich

Nov. 14, 2014

Team North Saanich (TNS) delivered flyers to waterfront property owners this week, just days before the election, making claims and promises to a privileged group that could put our shared waterfront at risk, and our community liable for unexpected costs.

Throughout their previous term on Council, the TNS incumbents have displayed a bias in favour of waterfront property owners, spurred on by a small, vocal group of waterfront property owners (PROW) that only represents 15% of all waterfront property owners.  At the Oct. 30 All Candidates Meeting, Browne, Mearns, McLintock, McBride and Pearce all stated that they believe that waterfront owners are treated unfairly.  Waterfront owners have higher-value properties, so the amount of taxes they pay is higher.  Apparently, TNS believes that is not fair.  Mearns (a waterfront property owner himself) even went so far as to say that some of the waterfront owners inherited their properties, and can’t afford to pay the taxes on them, so they should be given special consideration.  (Presumably, those taxpayers who DIDN’T inherit their properties, and perhaps even hold mortgages on them, would be the ones to shoulder the tax burden for those who did inherit their properties!) 

Waterfront property owners have the privilege of owning special pieces of land that abut our shared marine environment.  With that privilege comes responsibility.  In the case of development on the parts of their property that abut the ocean and the beach, that responsibility includes considerations around marine environments, erosion, pollution, and wave action.  It is a delicate system, where small changes at the property line can produce significant changes in the marine environment.  Man-made modifications of the foreshore can have significant implications to neighbouring properties, due to changes in wave action, long shore drift, etc.  Hence, there are added steps that need to be taken to ensure those considerations are dealt with, which unfortunately include added costs.

In their flyer, “if re-elected, TNS commits to working on behalf of waterfront property owners by supporting a review of Development Permit Areas (pertaining to waterfront properties) to reduce process and regulations where feasible without affecting environmentally sensitive areas on the waterfront”.

Ironically, it is worth noting that a review of the Development Permit Areas has been in the Strategic Plan since Dec. 2013 as a Short-Term Priority (to be looked at within one year) but has yet to be dealt with because the higher-density development focus of the Team North Saanich incumbents has pushed back that goal.  In fact, incumbents Celia Stock and Alice Finall supported the review of the Development Permit Areas, but it was TNS that held it up.  Are they really being up front about this “priority”?

Team North Saanich has remained silent on their website about special deals, but are now making promises to selected resident groups, the waterfront owners.  They claim to “Do what they say”, but they also don’t always say what they’re going to do.

·      They rescinded the security deposit for landscaping in the 15-meter foreshore, leaving the taxpayers liable for remediation costs if the work isn’t done.  A performance bond merely means that district staff doesn’t have to police the work – the homeowner is motivated to get the work done in a speedy fashion in order to release their performance bond.  Now, thanks to TNS, this puts an unnecessary burden on District staff, and another unnecessary cost to all taxpayers.

·      TNS also supports modification of docks in the 15-meter setback area, but are vague about what “modification” might mean.  Fifteen-meter setbacks have been enshrined in our OCP since 1977, and were also included in the 1989, 1998 and 2007 OCP’s as well.  They have long been recognized as an important measure to ensure environmental integrity of the foreshore.

Many waterfront residents want quiet, environment-friendly properties. Unblemished beachfronts form a vista recognized internationally as a treasure.  Waterfront owners need to recognize their special responsibilities, not just their “special” rights.

Again Team North Saanich have demonstrated their disregard for the Official Community Plan and environmental sustainability, and ignored the long-term implications of their actions.

They are pandering to a small, organized group of waterfront owners who represent less than 15% of all waterfront property owners – truly a vocal minority!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Team North Saanich - Nov 12 Campaign Speak

           A one-page sheet was mailed out by Team North Saanich to North Saanich residents on 12 November, 2014.  It is riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.  Here is more accurate information relating to points they raise in their letter:
·      TNS has only facilitated three units of housing priced below $400,000
·      preserving agricultural land (ALR ) is not a priority for them.  Food security is not a concern for Team North Saanich [ACM, 6 November, 2014]
·      the impact upon the municipality of newly approved higher housing densities is proportionately much higher than the 2% land area involved
·      new taxes from development are eventually outstripped by increased municipal servicing costs.  If this were not true, large cities like Vancouver would have very little debt and much lower taxes.
·      The Community Amenity Charge is not a rainy day fund.
·      The Team North Saanich characterization of the Sandown project is highly distorted:
§      there was no guarantee of a second Sandown agreement and
§      the reclamation costs now being funded by Mr. Randall are covered by approximately 2 years of project related, new tax revenue
§      rejecting the Sandown agreement, denied the municipality $347,000 of annual tax revenue in perpetuity, enough to fully fund the reclamation costs, and producing a net benefit of $5.7 million by 2032.
·      0% tax increases do not cover inflation and represent roller coaster economics, not fiscal stability.
·      Team North Saanich is an officially recognized slate, termed a Civic Political Party by Elections BC.  A preponderance of North Saanich residents indicate that they do not want slate governance.
·      The independent candidates running against Team North Saanich are indeed a group of individuals, united only by their common values and principles, not by their slavish devotion to an agenda.  Despite the fact that they have stated repeatedly that they are not a slate, Team North Saanich still persists in spreading this falsehood. 
·      Remember that the Team North Saanich Elector Organization is a group of 50 anonymous individuals who support their slate of candidates.
Vote for independent thinkers who do not campaign with slogans and group speak

 A detailed analysis of today's bulk Mailout is given below:

November 10th 2014
Dear North Saanich Resident:

Original Text
No doubt you have read that Team North Saanich intends to pave the entire municipality and replace all agricultural land with high density housing. Well we would like to tell you the truth.
·  A gross exaggeration.  We are not aware of anyone making any such predictions.
·  The truth and TNS do not always travel the same road; see our Fact Checker page.
Housing was one of the more important initiatives council took on this last term. We felt there was a need to provide housing which would be affordable for workforce employees, young families, and give seniors the option to age in place. A first priority for us was that no Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) would be disturbed.
·  But no policy to ensure affordable housing was created; 7 attempts to do so were refused by TNS
·  Of the over 200 units approved, only 3 were priced below $400,000 -- at $399,000.  According to the Sidney North Saanich Industry Group’s own survey, these units are unattainable to 65% [the lowest wage earners] of the group’s employees.
·  Preserving ALR land is not a first priority for TNS; throughout their term they have spoken in favour of ALR land removals.
·  They also discussed housing options on the Sandown property on different occasions.  Click here for more details.
We followed the recommendations of the 5 housing reports that have been produced over the past 12 years. Each of these reports, with much public input, had recommended higher density in appropriate areas.
·  These reports did not recommend higher density in appropriate areas, but did recommend creation of housing policy to address problems of housing affordability.
·  Those housing reports also reiterated the importance of the rural and agricultural nature of North Saanich.
·  A summary of their findings can be found here:
Based on that mass of public input, we changed the zoning to allow for a moderate increased density in two specific small areas between the airport and the Pat Bay Highway and an area on MacDonald Park Road east of the highway. Both areas are adjacent to Sidney and make up less than 2% of the area of the district.
·  The term "mass" is an exaggeration.  See the summary listed above.
The increased density is not moderate.
·  It enables 420 housing units where 128 are now with no consideration whatsoever for impact upon traffic.
·  While the geographical area may only be 2%, the impact of this density increase is proportionately much higher.

There are currently 4,500 houses in North Saanich and the approved rezoning would allow for a maximum of 520 new houses, an increase of roughly 10% over a ten year period, or an average of only 1% increase per year.
·  The timeframe has not been specified.
·  Staff reported in 2013 that about 500 units were pending or expected.
The new housing will generate additional tax income of approximately $168,000 per year (2% of our annual budget). In addition through amenity charges we will have created an amenity/rainy day fund of $2,700,000 to be applied to future projects like additional parks or recreation facilities to benefit our residents. All this has been achieved without any additional infrastructural costs to our residents.
·  New housing will generate additional tax income but also generates a disproportionately high servicing requirement as urban settlement demands more services that are also more expensive.
·  The Community Amenity Contribution is not a "rainy day fund" nor is it available for general expenses.
·  While there may have been additional infrastructure costs, there were significant staff costs incurred in expediting spot rezoning applications that were funded from general revenue only.
Another of our significant achievements has been in connection with the acquisition of the Sandown Lands. We felt the initial proposal would have exposed the municipality to excessive and potentially further unknown costs. Although we received considerable opposition, we refused to accept that deal and eventually negotiated a far better deal for our residents. As a result, we saved the District more than $1,000,000 In remedial costs and $500,000 in tax giveaway.
·  Team North Saanich has consistently opposed the agricultural component of the Sandown project, putting forward various flimsy reasons as earlier objections were overcome.  Increasing the commercial component and adding housing were consistent themes in their opposition.
·  Team North Saanich consistently misconstrues the facts around this situation:
·    there was no guarantee of a second agreement
·    there was no tax giveaway
·    the reclamation costs were fully covered by revenue
·     net revenue denied by Team North Saanich would have been $5.7 million by 2032 had the owner not come back.
Team North Saanich is not a closed minded slate, we are simply a group of people who believe that council decisions should be guided by common sense and are not afraid to tell residents what we intend to do if elected. We have chosen to run a clean and positive campaign, refraining from using the scare and attack methods of others. We are proud of our track record of providing some new attainable housing while improving the financial stability of North Saanich without any impact on our agricultural land.
·  This one is a real zinger, brought to you by the folks who regularly berated residents for offering their opinions in Council and even barring one from speaking.
·  Team North Saanich is an official slate, recognized by Elections BC as a Civic Political Party.  Why do we need a group-think slate in North Saanich?
·  Common sense is yet another code word, like "inclusive", "vibrant" and "affordable".  Since "common sense" means different things to different people, we would prefer to see "good sense” actually being practiced.
·  During the last election, Team North Saanich was very secretive about their plans to bar Mayor Finall from being the CRD director and about the scope of their development approval plans.  No mention was made of the potential for 520 units.  The number could have been much higher, but was only limited by sewer system capacity.
·  0% tax increases do not denote financial stability, but an arbitrary and temporary departure from sound fiscal planning.  Only when cost increases can be held at 0% does this make sense.  This is not stability but roller coaster economics.
Those who attack us pose as just a group of individuals. We believe it would be politically naive to believe they are running as individuals, they are in fact a slate themselves, and we don't think the voters of North Saanich are politically naive.
Nobody is “attacking” TNS members personally, especially not the other candidates.  However, there have been justifiable criticisms of their bad behavior and bad decisions as Councillors, from groups such as North Saanich Community Voices, and other citizens.  It is to be expected that they should be held accountable for their decisions and actions taken as Councillors.  Voters deserve nothing less.

The independent candidates have been consistent in their assertion that they are not a slate.  Slates can only be formed by the candidates themselves, which the independent candidates have chosen not to do.  Nor do they become a slate because others in the community group their signs together on their lawns, or choose to endorse them together.

It is hypocritical for Team North Saanich to say that the same label is positive for them, but negative when applied to others.

 Vote for independent thinkers who know what they stand for and adhere to principles, not agendas

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

New Video - 0% tax increases, roller coaster economics

In the 12 November, 2014 PNR, Team North Saanich inserted the colorful advertisement touting their record in keeping North Saanich tax increases to near 0%.

While this simpleminded golf may appear laudable it really does nothing to ensure fiscal stability as they claim.

If inflation were actually 0% over the long term, and employees accepted 0% wage increases over the long-term, then 0% tax increases may be feasible.

But, in the real world, as opposed to the world of campaign advertising, costs go up.  At least at the rate of inflation.  Why not at least allow for that?

For 0% tax increases, the piper must eventually be paid.  Do you want roller coaster economics or genuine fiscal stability?  Vote wisely.

We have a new video here, commenting on this advertisement.  It is at the bottom of the page.

Motions to Create Affordable Housing Policy Rejected by Team North Saanich

Team North Saanich consistently defeated motions to create affordable housing policy. Click here for the record of the recorded motions relating to the creation of affordable or 
workforce housing and/or related policy to achieve that goal.  The minutes do not reflect discussions where the issue was raised but no motion made. 
We would like to draw attention to the fact that all motions to create affordable 
housing or policy around it were moved and/or seconded by Finall, McMurphy or Stock.

Team North Saanich incumbents claimed that they did not want to delay any of the one-off housing projects by creating actual housing policy.

In the city of Langford, there is an established Affordable Housing Program which assists the lower income stratum to enter into the housing ownership market.  Had this innovative program been embraced in North Saanich, we would now have had provisions for 19 truly affordable housing units.

By contrast, the intransigence of Team North Saanich, has resulted in the very paltry offering of only three units out of nearly 200, being priced below $400,000, and at that, only by $1.

Here is a description of the Langford program, from their website.  They are currently actively seeking applicants:

The Affordable Housing Program requires developers of new subdivisions within the City of Langford to build one affordable home for every 10 single-family lots subdivided. These affordable homes are then priced at 60% of market value. The City, partnering with CMHC, assists developers by providing free administrative support, density bonuses and streamlined development approvals as incentives. Local realtors provide services free of charge, while credit unions, mortgage brokers and insurers (including CMHC) streamline mortgage pre-approvals.

In 2007, the City of Langford expanded the original policy by requiring new developments to be Building Code-ready for secondary suites, contributing to density and diversity. It also created visibility requirements such as wide doorways and level entrances to accommodate people with disabilities. For every new dwelling, a $500 contribution must be made to the City's Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, which is used to fund a rent subsidy program and the construction of new subsidized units.

Rather than actually assisting to alleviate the so-called affordable housing crunch, Team North Saanich only offered a cynical bait and switch program which led those of lesser means to actually believe that significant steps were being made to assist them.  Actually, the main energy was expended to advance the spot rezoning applications.  The lower income prospects were merely shills trotted out to assure the gullible public that steps were being made on their behalf.

About half of the Canora Mews development is occupied by seniors.