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!

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