In North Saanich, we are faced with the usual, but inappropriate, dilemma: housing and development vs. rural values. Why is it inappropriate?
The CRD has created the Regional Growth Strategy in which the Urban Containment Boundary has emerged as a key feature. Evidently, urbanization requires containment – the RGS policy states that a maximum of five per cent of regional growth will accrue to areas like North Saanich that are outside the UCB. There is no dilemma, our direction is clear. What does that mean for North Saanich and our candidates?
It means that they should support the RGS, and not apologize for doing so. In fact, they really don’t have a choice. It is a wisely crafted document because it recognizes that there is no natural harmony between rural/agricultural landscapes and those that are urbanized. Rural values exist mostly for what they are but also for what they are not – dense, busy, noisy, crowded and stressful but necessary for efficient housing, transport and commerce. The RGS recognizes that they cannot coexist – hence the 5/95 per cent growth prioritization. Why is this planning guidance problematic?
It isn’t, but can be if misrepresented. In our area, and indeed much of the developed world, housing availability is difficult and glib, knee-jerk solutions (build more) are abundant. There are many examples of why that approach simply does not work – including Canora Mews and Eaglehurst. So, what is North Saanich’s role in the housing crisis?
At best, it is very limited, guided by the five per cent growth ceiling clearly defined in the RGS. Today, existing zoning provides for considerable population growth without densification or altering the UCB. So, why are we being asked to provide housing solutions that contradict the RGS, when other jurisdictions, who officially have that obligation, have apparently failed?
We are doing our share, or more, within the CRD, we just have to be clear about what it is. Specifically, our obligation in North Saanich is to provide many non-urban amenities and values that other municipalities cannot, for the whole CRD.
Make sure that you select candidates for mayor and council that truly understand the Regional Growth Strategy and our role within it.