As the Capital Regional District’s amended growth strategy wends its way through Greater Victoria municipal councils in hopes of approval, subtly hidden in its pages is the right for the Juan de Fuca electoral area to legitimize its voice.
The growth strategy plan deals with every aspect of future development – transportation, land use, ecosystem protection and economics.
Part of the new mediated growth plan settles a major disagreement by providing a process and criteria for addressing new water-services extensions, and identities in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area communities where water extensions can occur.
Last fall, seven CRD communities – Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood and Esquimalt – rejected a proposed regional growth strategy, because it allowed the extension of piped water into the Juan de Fuca.
The main reason for rejection was the assertion that piping water into the area could lead to urban sprawl
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks was so incensed by the decision he asked Premier John Horgan, the MLA for the area, to intervene, which led to mediation.
The municipalities that rejected the plan came on side and a process was agreed to for addressing new water-services extensions and identifies Juan de Fuca communities – Otter Point, East Sooke and Port Renfrew – where the extensions could occur.
But deal also legitimizes every official community plan within the electoral area, which sets the blueprint for each community.
To this point, the CRD board could overwrite any OCP document. Now residents have a legitimate say in community development.
“By legitimizing the regional growth strategy, the CRD is legitimizing our OCP. Now the whole picture is complete,” Hicks said.
But there’s something more far reaching here.
By giving the Juan de Fuca a legitimate say in its future, this helps people feel that local government will act in the community’s overall interest, regardless of differing opinions.
People are more likely to have confidence in their local government if decisions are made in transparent and accountable ways.
It also encourages local governments to remember that they are acting on behalf of their community and helps them understand the importance of having open and ethical processes which adhere to the law and stand up to scrutiny.