Saanich will spend up to $250,000 from its strategic reserve fund and seek public feedback on the search for a replacement for the rescinded Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw.
“It is going to require time, it’s going to require resources — that is why we have this motion here tonight — and it will require commitment,” saidCoun. Susan Brice, who proposed the motion. “This is one of those long-term decisions that council makes.”
The unanimously approved motion calls on Saanich develop a report that would bring forward options for a Saanich-specific program to “serve as a policy framework” for other environmental policies and programs with climate adaption, biodiversity and stewardship as topics.
It also calls on staff that “a new Environmental Development Permit Area be considered” part of this program and that the recommendations of a long-awaited but never realized report by Diamond Head Consulting Ltd. “be considered as a component of this report.”
Saanich approved the funding after council had rescinded the EDPA, which Saanich had introduced in March 2012 to protect environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs).
Coun. Fred Haynes described the move as a “good first step” that will also partially serve as a “healing process” for the community that will give all parties a say.
“It was a tough set of meetings that we had [over the EDPA], and I think it was the most challenging decision I have had through this council to move this forward and get us to a position where we can work collectively together for a better outcome,” he said.
Council, meeting as committee-of-the-whole, rescinded the EDPA 5-4 on Oct. 28.
This vote surprised many because it happened during a meeting scheduled to receive public input on various recommendations to improve the EDPA and symbolized the deep divisions that had sprung up around the bylaw.
Council later confirmed this vote, but also promised an alternative policy.
Brice said her motion reflects those previous decisions. Whether councillors favoured or opposed the rescinding of the EDPA, all spoke “of the critical need” to have a replacement bylaw, she said.
It is uncertain when this replacement will appear. While staff could have a report on options by the end of the year, it would only be one milestone along a path that could take “years ” to complete, as Atwell said.
Plant also warned against high expectations. “Until we get this report, there is very little to nothing that is going to be happening that is different as a result of rescinding the EDPA,” he said.