The NSCV - Our Position
Welcome to the North Saanich Community Voices website. This page is intended to present our position on the North Saanich OCP Review and some of the rationale for that position.
The OCP Review began optimistically in March 2020 with a very good Staff Report outlining the scope and intended direction of the project. Discussion was upbeat and enthusiastic and Council directed Staff to proceed with the plan as given. Direction was also given to seek a consultant to assist Staff in conducting the Review.
The Phase 1 engagement process, conducted in late 2020, generally confirmed what previous OCP reviews have found - residents choose and recognize North Saanich as a primarily rural and agricultural district with most complementary commercial services being provided by nearby Sidney.
This land-use framework is defined and safeguarded by the Regional Growth Strategy. It is a contractual agreement among the many CRD municipalities to place land-use planning on a rational, rather than an ad-hoc, footing. Broadly, its intent is to prevent urban sprawl and keep urban development compact while safeguarding the rural and agricultural values here and elsewhere in the region. This is not a fuzzy concept, but rather a plan with considerable detail including a very clearly defined boundary between the rural and urban zones. Urban concentration, high use transit, commercial services and growth of complete communities is to be focused inside the Urban Containment Policy Area. North Saanich is entirely outside the UCPA.
Public concern about the process arose early in Phase 2. The red flag was the unexpected appearance of the Emerging Themes. These had only a vague connection to the findings of Phase 1 and were mostly at odds with the Regional Growth Strategy. It soon became clear that the guiding beacon for the Project Team was housing "solutions" for which the underlying “problems” were vaguely explained at best.
Despite receiving only 8% support in the Phase 1 Urgent Priorities survey results, housing issues became the dominant theme of the Review efforts. And even though survey respondents indicated their top Urgent Priorities were the environment, climate change, the marine environment, and agriculture and food security, these have been subsequently given very short shrift in the Review.
Public concern continued to grow and was expressed as a public rally of over 250 people in early July 2021. In response, Council, which had given the Project Team free reign for seven months, did attempt some minor changes, seeking a better balance among the Themes/Concepts. Although well-intentioned perhaps, little change in the focus has resulted. An urbanization theme continues to be applied to a municipality, which is, by definition in the RGS, 100% rural.
Subsequent to July 2021, it was noted in several project documents that the trust of the residents had been diminished or even lost. This initially caused some handwringing on the part of both Council and Staff, but the continued dedication to bringing urban densities to North Saanich in the OCP engagement process has not let up, even for a moment.
And even though residents and Council indicated a desire for only North Saanich residents and First Nations to be consulted in Phase 3 Engagement, the Project Team continued to allow non-residents and developers to weigh in, while ensuring that some engagement activities intentionally excluded some North Saanich residents who wanted to participate.
So, not surprisingly, the trust level remains low.
As North Saanich Community Voices, what is our objective in activating this website?
We feel strongly that accurate background information and informed opinion is vital to the successful continuation of this process. This site seeks to provide that.
But perhaps equally important is the realization that a critical opportunity has been all but lost in this housing-obsessed focus of the Project Team. At the outset of the OCP process, our dreams and goals as a community had a scope that was expansive and full of potential. We are the stewards of increasingly precious resources: climate-mitigating natural areas, marine environments, and foodlands that with good management could help provide for the food security of the region.
Our environmental and agricultural amenities play a critical role in the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and psychological health of the residents of the whole region. They also provide significant economic opportunities. In this time of climate change, food insecurity and unprecedented disastrous natural events, how can we enhance and strengthen this role in the region? Was that not what our OCP process should have explored? After all, these are the highest priorities of the people of North Saanich and the CRD, and the role North Saanich has been assigned within the Regional Growth Strategy.
This OCP Review exercise must be re-connected to the Regional Growth Strategy.
This is the conversation that North Saanich Community Voices thinks we as a community should be having. We hope you agree.
North Saanich Community Voices