Public Hearing - RCS Amendment - 14 July 2014

Newsletter advising residents about the upcoming Hearing. . .




July 9th, 2014

Dear North Saanich Resident,

We are happy to provide you with more information about the upcoming Public Hearing on the Regional Context Statement (RCS) Amendment and two rezoning applications (and related matters) to be held on Monday July 14th at 7:00 pm at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.  You will find the official notice at the bottom of this message.  If you trouble reading this email, just open the attachment.

This is our last chance to have our voices heard on the proposed Official Community Plan (OCP) changes which would allow for urban densities in NS.  We strongly urge all NS residents to come out to this Public Hearing and express your opinion on the proposal to allow:

·      up to 520 new housing units (that’s adding 10% of the total number of NS households) in the next five years

·      an increase in construction in NS from an average 45 units/year to 160 units/year

·      average densities proposed in the two areas (totaling about 180 acres) will be 8 to 16 units per acre, but densities could be as high as 30 units/acre

Council has indicated that they will vote on this drastic change to our community’s direction that night, so it is crucial that all NS residents participate in this democratic process.

What can you do?

There are a number of ways for you to express your views to Mayor and Council about the RCS Amendment, the rezoning applications and the process that has led to this point, bearing in mind that they cannot consider any new information following the close of the Public Hearings on Monday July 14th.

   Attend the Public Hearing on Monday July 14th at 7:00 pm.

   Speak at the Public Hearing – your comments may be as short or long as you like.  We strongly encourage you to take that opportunity to speak, even if only to say that you want Council to reject Bylaw 1352 until an OCP Review can be carried out.  Attending and speaking (even just a few words about your opinion) at the meeting may be the most important way you can let your wishes be known.
Numbers are very important, and our Council needs to know how many NS residents are opposed to this Amendment.  If you have an opinion on the issue, please express it at the Public Hearing.

   Phone your Mayor and Council to discuss the issues;  contact info follows

   Email your Mayor and Council;  contact info follows

   Write a letter to your Mayor and Council at admin@northsaanich.ca  If you sent a letter to the CRD expressing your concerns, and did not also send it to NS Mayor and Council at admin@northsaanich.ca, we encourage you to do so now.  (You may consider modifying it slightly if it contains references to the CRD.) You could also send it to each individual councillor at the addresses below.
       
        Councillor Craig Mearns           250-656-1173          craigmearns@shaw.ca
        Councillor Conny McBride        250-655-3648          c.mcbride@shaw.ca
        Councillor Ted Daly                  250-656-8700          teddaly@shaw.ca
        Councillor Dunstan Browne      250-655-4811          hdbrowne@shaw.ca
        Councillor Celia Stock              250-655-3437          CStock@northsaanich.ca
        Councillor Elsie McMurphy       250-656-2705          emcmurphy@northsaanich.ca
        Mayor Alice Finall                     250-656-6668          AFinall@northsaanich.ca

Please forward this important message to all your North Saanich contacts and ask them to get involved too – you will help spread the word!

What is the message Council needs to hear?

·  Council needs to hear how you feel about the proposed changes, and how you think it will affect you and your lifestyle.  Rural ambience and traffic congestion are two areas of immediate concern.
 
·  Council has a duty to represent the majority of NS residents, and the majority of NS residents want North Saanich to stay rural.

·  Council needs to know that the voters will remember any councillor who votes in favour of the amendment to urbanize NS, and we will replace them at the next election with someone who supports our OCP and rural vision.

·      The main point to be repeated is that the issue requires a proper OCP review and that a single public hearing is not appropriate for the magnitude of change, nor is it appropriate for Council to be making that change based on their own opinions.

How does a Public Hearing work?

There will be microphones set up for speakers.  You do not need to register to speak, nor do you need to be a NS resident.  Simply line up at the microphone.  We hope everyone will take the opportunity to speak, even briefly, so that Council knows that NS residents do not support this level of urbanization.

Seven public hearings are actually scheduled for this meeting, which cover seven related bylaws -- they will be held concurrently which means you may speak about one issue or all seven in any order you choose.  Bylaw 1352, the most significant of the seven, relates to the North Saanich Official Community Plan Regional Context Statement (RCS) Amendment which will allow for significantly higher residential densities in two areas.  The RCS Amendment is substantial -- an increase of up to 520 housing units in two areas of North Saanich over 5 years.  This is a significant change to our Official Community Plan. 

The remaining six bylaws that will be considered on Monday evening cannot go ahead without approval of the RCS Amendment (the above noted Bylaw 1352).  It is worth noting that Bylaw 1344 refers to a rezoning application to enable the development of 99 lots with single-family dwellings and 11 carriage houses on rural-agricultural land.  Bylaw 1320 refers to a 54-unit condominium development.  A 70-unit condominium application on land zoned rural-agricultural on Lochside Drive is also in the works.

Another 40 units are already being built under an earlier application that escaped this process of scrutiny.

What are the concerns?

Numerous, well-informed concerns have been raised by North Saanich residents in letters to Council and in the over 220 letters sent by NS residents to the CRD.  The concerns include:

   a seriously flawed consultation process
   a significant change to the OCP without adequate consultation
   loss of previously farmed rural-agricultural land
   the right of residents to have their OCP respected
   decisions being based on false or shoddy information
   the North Saanich rural-residential lifestyle under threat
   departure from the traditional slow/moderate growth
   an increase in building from an average 45 units/year to 160 units/year
   average densities proposed in the two areas will be 8 to 16 units per acre, but densities could be as high as 30 units/acre
   lack of any affordable housing policies
   lack of certainty that this RCS Amendment will actually provide any truly affordable housing
   lack of traffic and environmental studies
   increased costs of urbanization to all residents through higher taxes (rural municipalities always have lower taxes than urban ones)
   and more…

Where can I get more information?

More information is available at the District of North Saanich website: 



The North Saanich Community Voices website contains a great deal of relevant information, and can be found here:   www.nscv.ca.

Please come out and speak at the Public Hearing on Monday, July 14 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mary Winspear Centre.  If you can’t make it that night, please find another way to let Council know how you feel about this significant change proposed for our community direction.  This is our last chance to stop what will likely lead to the urbanization of North Saanich.

Our municipality is a beautiful, precious and unique place – let’s do all we can to keep it that way.

Remember - changes of this magnitude require an OCP review by all residents – tell Council that!

Thanks for your continued interest in North Saanich issues.  We hope to see and hear from you on Monday July 14th at the Mary Winspear Centre.


Heather Gartshore, Bernadette Greene, Springfield Harrison and Jack Thornburgh

North Saanich Community Voices

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Dear North Saanich Resident,


We are happy to provide you with more information about the upcoming Public Hearing on the RCS Amendment, two rezoning applications (and related matters) to be held on Monday July 14th at 7:00 pm in the Bodine Hall at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.

This page contains relevant background information.  For earlier information on the same topic click here to visit the RCS Amendment page.



Many citizens have made written and verbal representations to the CRD Board and the North Saanich Council.  Despite efforts to rouse their supporters to speak in support, over 95% of those making presentations are against this Amendment.  Details will be provided soon…


The following submission was made at the CRD Board meeting of 18 June, 2014.  Following this submission is a comprehensive summary of the history of housing consultation in North Saanich and a critique of Councillor Daly's remarks to the CRD Board on 11 June, 2014.

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To the Chair and Board of Directors of the CRD,

Re:  NS RCS amendment

Our intention is to lay before you some of the most pressing arguments to reject the NS RCS Amendment, and to correct some of the statements Director Daly made on June 11, 2014, in order that you may have an accurate picture of the situation, and therefore make a decision based on facts.
There are four compelling reasons why you should not vote for this amendment: 

1)  Inconsistency with the RGS
The proposed bylaw 1352 is inconsistent with the RGS as the additional housing units proposed in Section 6.0 are not consistent with the growth policies of section 1.1 of the RGS nor the rural community protection policies of Section 1.2 of the RGS. 

If the CRD Board approves this bylaw, it will encourage urban sprawl into rural and rural/residential areas, contrary to the recognized need for greater protection for rural residential municipalities in the RSS Review process.  In addition to the above noted inconsistency with the RGS, the changes will be inconsistent with the RSS.

2)  No Mandate

Council has refused open discussions with residents on these proposals, denying adequate and meaningful consultation about these major and fundamental OCP changes as required by section 879 of the Local Government Act. 

It is strongly opposed by a large, diverse and well-informed body of North Saanich citizens who have no financial interest in any of these projects.
When residents publicized the proposed changes and organized meetings, more than 260 attended two meetings to learn about these proposals and how they would affect individual neighbourhoods as well as the whole municipality.

In addition, the CRD Board has received over 200 letters, with all but a handful opposing this amendment.  The Directors have also heard from dozens of speakers, almost all opposed, and most of those in favour having a pecuniary interest in the outcome.

3)  Against the Official Community Plan

On June 11, Director Daly stated that this amendment is not against the OCP.  That is not correct.  The NS OCP emphasizes rural and agricultural values.  It states that the smallest lot sizes in NS are 1/3 acre.

The OCP recognizes issues of affordable and workforce housing, but this amendment does not directly address those problems.  This amendment only provides opportunities for market housing.

4)  Lack of Meaningful Consultation

On June 11, Director Daly referenced numerous consultations, indicating that throughout the history of these consultations there has been consistent support for this type of housing.  Again, with all due respect, that is simply not true.  Appendix A has a detailed review of the results of the consultations since 2003. 

Briefly, the clear message from these consultations is that North Saanich residents value rural and agricultural entities.  There have indeed been extensive consultations since 2003, and the councils of the day have listened to residents and incorporated the wishes of the residents in the OCP.   Had housing of this density been considered important, previous councils would have enabled it.  This initiative contradicts Council and citizen preferences dating from 2003.

Regarding affordable housing, all consultations have recognized a need for affordable housing, but as yet there is no affordable housing policy established for NS.  

The latest consultation, contracted to CTQ Consulting, was terminated prematurely, a decision by the Council majority.  Thus, meaningful discussion and assessment of the HSIP Final Report was prevented.  Furthermore, Staff was directed to undertake no further work on that report.

Of note is the fact that the 2008 election did not return Director Daly to the mayor’s chair, after similar attempts during the previous term to bring in higher-density developments in NS.  In fact, Mayor Finall was elected with the most votes for any mayoral candidate to date while strongly advocating for the maintenance of rural and agricultural values.

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 by the present NS Council.

Comments by Director Daly

Director Daly made many statements on 11 June, 2014 that are misleading or actually wrong.  The correct information is provided here, details are in Appendix B [not included here].

·     Community consultation since 2003 has not supported this type of densification.  Large percentages of survey respondents supported retaining rural values, many were concerned about uncontrolled growth.  The only consistent message about affordable housing was a recognition of a need for it in NS.  This amendment does not guarantee affordable housing, only creates the opportunity for more market housing.
·     Most Sidney North Saanich Industry Group members do not have operations on the airport, only 4 out of 12 SNSIG members are located in North Saanich.
·     "75% of their 2500 employees want options to live in North Saanich" - not accurate.  In the SNSIG survey, only 44% of respondents indicated an interest in purchasing housing on the Saanich Peninsula and only 27% favor rental housing on the Saanich Peninsula.  Presumably, the percentages for North Saanich itself would be even lower.
·     While some companies may indeed be ”begging this Council to provide more affordable housing”, they have made no effort to call on Council to create affordable housing policy.
·     Current proposals will indeed see a loss of farmland.  Canora Mews is on 4 acres of formerly ALR land that supported greenhouses and the next project in line is on 13.5 acres of Class 3 soils, improvable to Class 2.
·     Mr. Daly finds it problematic that the citizen meetings were widely advertised with mailbox notices.  In many communities such a spontaneous initiative would be seen as a healthy indicator of citizen interest and engagement.  Director Daly is markedly out of step with modern trends in citizens' involvement with their government.

Conclusion

This highly controversial RCS Amendment:

1)   is inconsistent with the RGS - proposed densities and growth rates are well beyond the slow and moderate.  Alternative 2 in the CRD Staff Report is offered as a viable choice.
2)   The provincially-mandated process to change the OCP has not been followed.  It is strongly opposed by a large, diverse and well-informed body of North Saanich citizens who have no financial interest in any of these projects.
3)   Rests upon supporting facts that are of very dubious quality
4)   rests upon a public consultation process that was flawed and deliberately truncated
5)   attempts to substitute opportunistic spot-rezoning projects for genuine, goal-oriented housing planning

For any of these reasons alone, the Amendment should be rejected.

As regional stewards of the RGS, charged with making decisions that are clearly in the broader public interest, you have little choice but to reject this RCS amendment.

Sincerely,
Heather Gartshore, Patrick Godfrey, Bernadette Greene, Springfield Harrison, and Jack Thornburgh

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Appendix A
Housing Consultations History
[also available as a blog post here]


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:

Council 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.

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Speaking Notes for CRD, June 11

Honourable Chair and Directors, I am Spring Harrison, North Saanich:

           I strongly urge you to reject this proposed North Saanich RCS Amendment.   It envisions significant changes to our OCP while failing to adequately address concerns about workforce and affordable housing.

           I have 7 points to present this afternoon:

1.    In the recent history of North Saanich, this unusually pro-development Council is out of step with established public opinion.  Since 2003, a series of housing consultations have shown strong support for rural and agricultural values in North Saanich while recognizing housing concerns for seniors and workers.

2.    The first development project in this series, approved as a one-off by this Board, is on land once in the ALR.  The next project, Reay Creek Meadows, is on about 13 acres of Class 3 soil, improvable to Class 2.  As North Saanich is a regional storehouse of agricultural land, the CRD should take a strong stand in assisting in the stewardship of this valuable and dwindling resource.

3.    Although Council is strongly divided on the issue of higher density housing, the general population is probably not.  At two recent, widely advertised citizen meetings, convened specifically to discuss this topic, (with 100 and 165 residents respectively in attendance), there were only a handful of supporters for this RCS Amendment.  However, about two dozen residents walked out in disgust as Councillor Browne attempted to defend this initiative.

4.    As I and others have mentioned both today and on previous occasions, public consultation on this issue has been badly conducted and ineffective.  Strong evidence for this is the independent report provided by Dr. Brock Smith of the University of Victoria.  In it, he strongly counselled against using any of the CTQ Consulting Exit Survey results to guide in the formulation of public policy.  While North Saanich invited the SNSIG and the SPCOC to present their surveys, my presentation of Dr. Smith's findings was purged from the agenda by Councillor Daly.  Public consultation in North Saanich operates with movable goalposts.

5.    The strongest support for this RCS Amendment is from the development community and their ardent supporters on Council.  Despite much high-toned rhetoric, this initiative is primarily to facilitate land speculation.  Realization of any affordable workforce housing will only be a convenient by-product, not an overarching goal.  Repeated attempts by the Council minority to formulate affordable housing policy have been routinely rejected.

For evidence that this initiative is project driven as opposed to policy driven, we only need to look back to the Board meeting of 26 March, 2014.  Then the agent for the Reay Creek Meadows project vigorously and inappropriately for this venue, promoted that project to you.  I do not believe that your role is to entertain individual project proposals.

To be clear - I support purpose built, workforce and affordable housing in appropriate locations and of appropriate types that stem from comprehensive planning and genuine community involvement.  Market priced housing serves the developer at the expense of the lower income worker.

6.    You may not be aware that during the Council meeting on last Monday, June 9, the Council majority instructed Staff to prepare the bylaws for the Reay Creek Meadows project in anticipation of your assumed endorsement of this RCS Amendment today.  To me, this indicates that this Board is being taken for granted as an application processing tool.  I hope you will confirm our belief that this body is composed of independent thinkers who will not be led around him by the nostrils.

7.    Lastly, I believe your role is to facilitate genuine regional planning that properly matches all forms of land-use allocation to their most appropriate zones within the Region.

For many reasons, I think that Alternative 2 on page 2 of the CRD Staff Report before you today is entirely supportable.

                                Thank you, Spring Harrison, North Saanich

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