There are many issues and ideas to discuss! I continue to work on this page content. Feel free to contact me (email@example.com) if there is an issue you would like me to address.
Housing and Affordability
One of the biggest challenges Council will have to deal with is housing and affordability – but is “affordable” really achievable? We should pay more attention to non-market and “missing middle” housing options. I support Council’s ongoing efforts to keep new housing within the Urban Containment Boundary – applying the principles of infill and densification – to prevent urban sprawl and help protect the rural feel of our community. However, this can be very difficult to accomplish without impacting neighbourhood character, even though Council has adopted Design Guidelines to help fit new housing into existing neighbourhoods.
Supportive housing: Councillor Paltiel and I have brought forward motions on three occasions to try and convince the Province to let us have some control over what’s happening on Prosser Road (June 2021 Notice of Motion). No luck so far with the Province. Council is well aware of the concerns of residents, particularly those living in proximity to the project, and will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for the best possible outcome. An update on the project was recently published in the Thursday, October 6 edition of the Peninsula News Review (check out the e-edition).
If elected, I plan to attend the BC Housing Central Affordable Housing Conference in Vancouver (November 2022).
Feeling safe on our roads
Many residents have expressed concerns about feeling safe on neighbourhood streets, and would like to see speed limits in residential areas speed limits reduced, as well as new sidewalks. Right now, it would mean we’d have to post speed limits on every street if enforcement was the goal. As a cyclist I would love to see safe bike lanes between Saanichton and Brentwood Bay. Council adopted an Active Transportation Plan (download from the Central Saanich website) but it will take time to implement given the expected costs of the planned projects.
Click for more information: Central Saanich Active Transportation Plan
Several projects have already been completed or initiated, including crosswalk improvements at Keating Elementary School, intersection improvements at Wallace Drive and Marchant Road, and the Benvenuto Avenue multi-use pathway between Wallace Drive and Butchart Gardens..
I am supportive of a review of residential (neighbourhood) street speed limits in Central Saanich. The questions are what should the speed limit be and what will the community accept?
Wallace Drive bike lane: On October 3, Council approved submission of a BC Active Transportation Infrastructure Grant application for the Wallace Drive bike lanes between West Saanich Road and Stelly’s Cross Road, total project cost of $953,000 (maximum grant $500,000). This project is linked to the replacement of sanitary sewers along Wallace Drive. This section between West Saanich Road and Stelly’s Cross Road is an important section of the Active Transportation Plan connecting two village hubs.
Lochside Drive between Martindale and Island View: Action must be taken to reduce user conflicts and improve safety on that section of the route. It’s not just a bike trail but a road used by farmers, local residents to access the highway (which will be exacerbated by closure of the Martindale Road access to the highway when the flyover is constructed), equestrians and walkers.
Farming and the ALR
I am an ardent and long-term supporter of farming and the ALR. The best long-term protection for the ALR is a viable and sustainable (including financial) local agricultural economy. Council needs to take actions that offer the best conditions for farming and farm families to prosper. Some farms need drainage improvements to allow for more efficient crop production. How do we increase the amount of ALR land in food production? How do we get new and young farmers on the land? And what about affordable housing for farm workers?
Can we help ease the health care in crisis?
While it’s good news to hear the Province is looking at updating the fee-for-service model that is a major contributor to the shortage of family physicians, there may be other ways that local government, within its authority and capacity, can partner to help improve the situation. In July, I contacted the Saunders Family Foundation about bringing its “Community Healthcare Support Network Pilot Project” forward to the District of Central Saanich. As a result, the group made a presentation to Council on September 6, and provided recommendations which have been incorporated into the 2nd draft of the Official Community Plan (OCP), including support for developing “a community healthcare support network (CHSN) strategy to lead and coordinate contributions from many community organizations and stakeholders to help support, retain and attract local healthcare and emergency personnel.”
Our OCP already includes a clause allowing an additional floor for development projects in our village centres if one floor is dedicated to medical facility. The District has also supported the innovate Shoreline Medical operation since 2018, including a permissive tax exemption.
On Saturday (September 17), I signed the Saunders’ Family Foundation Accountability Partnership Pledge, the first Council candidate east of Colwood and Langford to sign the pledge. The document is a pledge that elected officials will work towards incorporating policies into the community OCPs designed to strengthen social planning policy objectives, including to retain, support and attract family doctors, nurses, and other healthcare and emergency personnel. To learn more about the “Community Health Care Support Network”, visit the Saunders Family Foundation website at https://healthywestshore.ca/.
Official Community Plan (OCP) update
On Thursday, September 22, Central Saanich Council endorsed the 2nd Draft of the Official Community Plan (OCP) for the purpose of getting more feedback from other governments (including First Nations), other organizations and residents. Significant changes have been made to the initial draft, based on feedback from residents, local organizations, our OCP Advisory Committee and Council.
Protection of our rural landscape is maintained in the OCP. New housing and commercial/industrial developments are limited to within the Urban Containment Boundary (Schedule F, thick black line). Over the last 8 years I have sat on Council, this boundary and the ALR have been respected and maintained. The changes you see in our community result in part from the fact that Council has not supported urban sprawl, but acted to meet the challenge of creating new housing within existing developed areas. The 2nd draft of the OCP includes the following policy: “Applications for exclusion of lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve will not supported by the District.”
The vision for our community remains largely unchanged (2.1. Our Community Vision, 2.2. Fundamental Principles – there are 9 more). The fundamental principles of maintaining small town character and supporting farming and our agricultural land base are still high priorities. Now, I’ll admit that trying to maintain small town character while supporting infill and densification is no easy task, and not everyone agrees with some of the decisions made by Council (including me at times, but I do accept the majority opinion).
There are policies in the 2nd Draft that I’ll continue to question and challenge, including a review and clarification of the Main Corridor Development designation along main transportation corridors. I want to ensure the public is aware of this designation and its implications for future higher-density development.
A Public Hearing on the OCP is not expected until the New Year, so don’t panic, you will have time and opportunity to offer your feedback on the 2nd Draft.
Relationships with First Nations and Reconciliation
I am committed to the ongoing process of building positive working and cultural relationships with our WSÁNEĆ First Nations communities of WJOŁEŁP (Tsartlip) and SȾÁUTW (Tsawout), and to pursue reconciliation initiatives. Our updated Official Community Plan recognizes the importance of these relationships and includes proposed actions designed to recognize and respect the First Nations that thrived here for thousands of years on the Peninsula before settlement by Europeans. I look forward to working on a cooperative place-naming and historical signage project for Central Saanich that recognizes First Nations culture and history, for example.
I have enjoyed the opportunity, as a private citizen, to share my research on John Trutch’s 1858 survey and map of South Saanich (now Central Saanich) with members of the WSÁNEĆ Leadership Council and the Tsartlip First Nation. Trutch’s observations provide a window into the pre-contact environment of Central Saanich, including ȾIKEL, the large bog that covered what we are now familiar with as Maber’s Flats:
Inland marshes are the places where cattails, tule and other grasses grow. These materials were used to weave mats and baskets. We would also hunt ducks in these marshes. Today on the Saanich Peninsula these marshlands have been drained and the land used for farming. In fact, Stelly’s School stands on the edge of where a large marsh used to be. On the day the marsh was drained my mother shook her head and said, “This place will no more be good for us.” from Saltwater People: as told by Dave Elliott Sr. (1983)
Climate Change and the Environment
Both as Councillor and individual, I support our Climate Leadership Plan (2020) which includes goals of 100% less GHG emission by 2050 (relative to 2007) and 100% renewable energy community wide by 2050. Transportation is a huge contributor to local GHG production: The District’s Active Transportation Plan (2021) is designed to encourage people to get out of cars and use other modes of transportation, like transit, cycling, walking and rolling but it will take time to build out the plan given projected costs. Central Saanich also developed an EV and E-bike Strategy – I see more and more folks cycling by my front window on e-bikes! E-bikes also open up cycling for our senior community (25% of our residents are 65 years and older). Heather and I both have e-bikes and an EV (Chevy Bolt).
Infill and densification may not please everyone and it is a big challenge to fit new developments into existing neighbourhoods, but more compact and complete communities put more people closer to services and encourage trips by foot, bicycle and transit. Building new energy-efficient homes is important but we also need to consider retro-fitting existing homes and businesses which account for the big majority of buildings in Central Saanich. Currently Central Saanich is offering a financing program through its conversion of Oil to Heat Pump Financing program, for example.
Support for local business and the Peninsula economy
We all want our local business community to prosper. Businesses provide jobs and offer a broad range of services to our residents. One of the most pressing needs we hear from business is the challenge of recruiting employees. Affordable workforce housing is seen as one of the challenges that businesses want local government to tackle.
Saanichton and Bentwood Bay village centres
I expect continued development and a concentration of services and residents around the village centres should help businesses prosper in both villages. While Brentwood was upgraded 15 years ago, now it’s Saanichton’s turn as envisioned in the Saanichton Village Design Plan, but implementation of that that plan – to create an area for folks to shop and live in a welcoming, pedestrian-friendly village centre – will depend on re-development of the village core, so hopefully that will happen over the next 10 years!
Keating Industrial area
Council could help promote development in the Keating Industrial area through amendments to the Land Use bylaw, as suggested in the draft Official Community Plan. For example:
Amend the zoning bylaw to create more flexible zoning (expand permitted uses).
Amend the zoning bylaw to allow taller buildings in the Service Commercial area and consider rental housing above the ground floor. However, there are mixed opinions about residential in the industrial area over concerns that there could be conflicts between residents and industrial activity that could impede industrial activity.
Consider ground-oriented live/work buildings. Any residential uses would not be allowed to reduce capacity for commercial or industrial uses.
We are not an isolated community and the economy extends beyond our municipal borders. I believe there needs to be more communication between local governments, including First Nations. We used to have tri-municipal meetings and I think we should get back to that, now adding the WSÁNEĆ Nations – even it they’re simply conversations. One of the objectives of our draft OCP is that Central Saanich “collaborates with the WSÁNEĆ Nations, North Saanich and Sidney in partnership with local business organizations to explore community economic development opportunities and to promote businesses serving the Saanich Peninsula.” So, let’s get at it!
Interview with the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. The focus of the interview was two key areas of concern to the business community: workforce housing and economic development. Link to the interview.
We need to control expenses, keep tax increases reasonable, plan for today AND tomorrow through an Asset Management Plan designed to sustainably plan for future infrastructure upgrades. Increasing spending on some projects means consideration needs to be given to what services would be reduced.
Public engagement and planning processes
I have been increasingly concerned with an apparent decrease in public engagement over time, particularly impacted by the pandemic and Zoom. Years ago, we had very robust community engagement and often a full Council Chamber. It makes it very challenging to make effective decisions that are understood and respected by the community when you’re only hearing from a small minority of the population. We have a new Council Chamber with plenty of comfortable chairs – it would be wonderful to see more of those seats filled on a regular basis. There’s simply no effective substitute for observing Council in person and communicating directly with the Mayor and Councillors. Yes, there will always be those controversial decisions that some don’t like, but sometimes Council has to make tough decisions in order to meet its community responsibilities.
In May, I brought forward a motion to include all mail received by Mayor and Council on the public meeting agendas, so that Council (and the community) hears what the community has to say, and I continue to work on reforming our Procedures Bylaw to come up with an efficient system that works for Council and the community.
I would also like to see more development proposals come forward to Committee meetings prior to going to Council for a formal decision, offering time for Council to review the recommendations made at Committee meetings.