Saanich rescinds controversial EDPA bylaw

A controversial bylaw designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) is on its way out.

Council, meeting as committee-of-the-whole, voted 5-4 Saturday to rescind the Environmental Development Permit Area EDPA bylaw. Mayor Richard Atwell, Coun. Susan Brice, Coun. Fred Haynes, Coun. Karen Harper, and Coun. Leif Wergeland voted in favour of rescinding the bylaw, which Saanich introduced in 2012.

Coun. Judy Brownoff, Coun. Colin Plant, Coun. Dean Murdock, and Coun. Vicki Sanders voted against rescinding the bylaw.

Council’s narrow vote against the EDPA came during a lengthy meeting Saturday scheduled to hear public input on a report recommending various improvements to the controversial bylaw that has been subject of lengthy, often divisive debate. Critics of the bylaw say it has restricted their ability to modify their properties, and lowered their property values.

While Council had commissioned the report from Diamond Head Consulting in May 2016 to improve the EDPA, Saturday’s hearing into the report turned out to be the occasion of its demise, provided council confirms the vote during its next regular meeting.

Saturday’s vote also marks a major political victory for newly-elected Coun. Karen Harper, who had campaigned on rescinding the bylaw during the byelection that led her to take the council seat open since the death of Vic Derman, an ardent supporter of the EDPA.

Harper acknowledged that Saturday’s vote fulfills one of her three campaign promises, but noted that any councillor depends on support from others.

“I’m pleased by the outcome, but I’m also saddened that it took us so long to find a stage, where we can move forward,” she said. “It’s not a moment of celebration, it is a moment of reflection.”

Atwell said in an interview after the vote that the EDPA was a “draconian bylaw” that focused on the wrong problems, offering “weak environmental protection” along the way.

“As a bylaw and policy, it clearly wasn’t working for homeowners and needed to be thrown out,” he said. “I tried to rescind the bylaw at council two years ago, without success, because my sense was that we would end up here anyway.”

Atwell was especially critical of the atlas that identifies ESAs subject to EPDA provisions. The atlas that served as the basis for the EDPA was not only inaccurate, but also targeted the wrong areas, by focusing on lawns, gardens, front and back yards, he said.

“Saanich needs strong environmental protection where it makes sense, and I believe that when it’s scientifically arrived at, it will garner widespread support,” said Atwell.

Plant said in a Facebook post that the EDPA bylaw in its current form needed to change. “In my opinion the EDPA needed to be revised and replaced,” he said. However he opposed rescinding the bylaw. “I was opposed because I believed that while we rebuild the EDPA bylaw it would have been unwise to rescind the bylaw and leave only the pre-EDPA protections in place,” he said. “To put it bluntly, rescinding and rolling back to 2012 measures gives us less protection than the current EDPA,” he said.

Harper disagrees. Saanich has many measures that protect the environment, she said. “I don’t believe we have left Saanich in jeopardy,” she said.

Plant said he recognized that the EDPA angered many. “I appreciate that people were emotional and upset and really wanted the current EDPA to simply go away but the method we are now to proceed with…sees us with less protection than we currently have while we come up with a new EDPA bylaw,” he said.

Following the vote to rescind, council eventually instructed staff to develop a Saanich program addressing environmental topics like climate change, biodiversity and stewardship to “serve as a policy framework for other Saanich environmental policies and programs and that a new EDPA be considered as part of this program.” This report would consider the report recommendations of the Diamond Head report.

Council approved that motion by a vote of 6-3 with Atwell, Harper and Wergeland opposed.

Plant called that vote an important signal to the community. “I suggest this motion was important because after the rescinding of the EDPA, I believe Council needed a way forward that was more than just an EDPA rebuild.”

Plant used the following metaphor to describe council’s path forward. “Saanich is building a new house and while we are building that new house, Council has decided to go live out in a tent rather than the house it is currently staying in.”

Just Posted

Millstream Road closed to traffic at Bear Mountain Parkway

Downed hydro pole blocking both lanes at Industrial Way

Bike dragged several blocks after hit and run

Wheel-less bike dragged underneath van along Dallas Rd. after cyclist hit

Man arrested at gunpoint outside Vic High

Police were called after he allegedly threatened a teacher with a knife

New bike facility pitched for View Royal Park

Park would encourage more youth to ride

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

Britain gives long-lost Franklin expedition ships to Canada, Inuit

Deeds to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror signed over to Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in

Three days after rampage, people still gathering at memorial to lay flowers and honour victims

Liberals urged to tax e-commerce services like Netflix

Trudeau has been adamant that his government wouldn’t increase taxes on online subscriptions

Why some B.C. daycares didn’t opt in to subsidy program

Deadline passes for program aimed at laying foundation for universal child care

Charges follow collisions between pickup and police vehicles in Nanaimo

Majore Jackson, 32, and Andrew John Bellwood, 47, from Nanaimo, face numerous charges

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

Most Read