A Steep Hill To Climb?

Update on the Public Meeting Held July 14, 2010 - Vantreight Hill Development

Reports I have received from North Saanich (NS) and Central Saanich (CS) residents who attended the July 14th public hearing on the Vantreight Hill development proposal suggest that those for and against were fairly evenly split, with perhaps a majority of the audience expressing their opposition to the proposal. I understand that the room was packed and the hearing continued until well after midnight. Speakers were apparently given about 5 minutes each to make comments and the Chair, Central Saanich (CS) Councilor Ron Kubek, managed the meeting well. Reports are that the crowd was orderly and CS Council members listened carefully to what was being said.

Much of the public concern expressed by opponents at the hearing seems to focus on such issues as:
-- gradual loss of agricultural land to large scale development totally out of character with rural Central Saanich
-- development is well outside CS's urban containment boundary
-- increased tax burden for taxpayers related to provision of increased services to housing development (water, sewer, roads and other amenities)
-- CS Councilors reminded about their election promises to uphold Official Community Plan
-- residents want to save local farms but developing rural land to do so does not seem an option they support
-- recent review of Official Community Plan by CS residents reaffirmed community's support of an urban containment boundary
-- majority expressed unequivocally that rural lands are not to be "held" pending future development
-- erosion by CS Council members of local community decision-making, especially related to rural and agricultural lands
-- core to the issue are the regional implications related to the Regional Sustainability Strategy (formerly known as the Regional Growth Strategy or RGS)

I have also learned that there is another possible issue related to sewage treatment and wastewater that may, in the end, involve the CRD. My understanding is that there is a CRD bylaw known as #2312 which sets out the process for subdivision where on site sewage treatment is identified. It means in this case that if the bylaw is applicable, the Vantreights and CS Council may have to seek CRD approval for this development after all. At the time of writing this article, I did not have confirmation about the bylaw's fine print, about whether this bylaw is still current or whether it would apply to the Vantreight Hill Development.

North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall and Councilor Peter Chandler also attended the public hearing and observed that those in favour of the development of course included the Vantreights, their supporters and staff that work at their operation. I understand that based on the feedback from the meeting, this will be a complex and difficult decision for the CS Council. North Saanich is taking a special interest in the outcome because of the possible negative impact on NS residents living adjacent to the site, in the SEQ.

Large development decisions are never easy for those elected to make the decision but the overriding question decision-makers must always ask themselves, "What is the overall benefit to the community and its residents?" Other reports from the meeting suggest that there still remain many unanswered questions about the impacts of this proposal, including traffic, water, sewage and regional concerns about unplanned growth in rural areas. Stay tuned...

In response to my article on the July 14th Public Hearing on the Vantreight Hill Proposal, readers who attended the Hearing have e-mailed me to request that I add two further important points raised that evening:
  • A petition of 800 signatures opposing the development was presented at the meeting by a citizens' group
  • Those opposed to the development spoke repeatedly about the fact that the personal financial dilemma the Vantreights find themselves in has nothing to do with Central Saanich.