Saanich is an amazing place to live. We have the incredible ability to enjoy the benefits of our urban culture and with only a short drive can be taking in the relaxed nature of our rural community. As a Council Member, I will continue to work at maintaining the environmental stewardship that been done in the past. I will ensure that we will always have a community that allows us the opportunity to enjoy our rural culture while maintaining healthy growth within our urban core.
I want families to feel that they can call Saanich home again. To achieve this, we need to sustainably grow our village centers outlined in the Local Area Plans (LAP’s). As we update the LAP’s we will need to work with the community to identify the areas that are appropriate to develop and those that are not. Working closely with the community will ensure that growth is sustainable and within the vision of the residents.
Overall, we need a balance between the demand that the municipality is experiencing from growth, while supplying a pragmatic policy that will allow our communities to maintain the beauty and character that attracted us to living here in the first place. I will work to sustain our environmental stewardship and encourage sustainable growth that will allow our community to be accessible to farmers and families and students and everyone that would like to call Saanich home.
Saanich is one of the most desirable places to live and it is important that we balance sustainable growth with protecting the environment. It is also important to create a vision for all residents who choose to call Saanich home.
We need to continue to work local organizations such as BC Housing and the Capital Regional Housing Corporation to ensure that we provide affordable for our low-income residents. There are so many people in need of affordable housing. Students and families and people with disabilities all need to be able to call Saanich home. It is important that we include people of all needs when working to create affordable housing in our community.
Affordable housing is also a result of inventory. As more and more people plan to make Saanich home, we will need a plan to create density in those areas that have been identified for increased housing. Working with the community and home builders, we can find ways to increase the housing stock while maintaining the character or our neighbourhoods. Focusing apartment and condo developments to the areas that can support the density and height will allow the surrounding neighbourhoods to maintain their character.
I strongly support mixed use developments that are designed to accommodate our need for housing as well as a healthy business community that will allow residents the ability to live and work and patronize businesses without the need to commute.
Community Associations and Local Area Plans
Community Associations play a big part of our community. They can act as the eyes and ears our community and can encourage the municipality to focus on the local characteristics of the neighbourhood when making decisions. I feel we can do more to support Community Associations. We need to give them the tools to understand and address the budgeting process and development process.
Local Area Plans (LAP’s) are out of date, most of the LAP’s are from the 90’s and need to be updated to address the current economical and developmental concerns. I strongly support expediting the updating of our LAP’s. We can achieve this by working with the Community Associations and a hired consulting group similar to Victoria which plans to update 10 LAP’s over 4 years.
Environmental Development Permit Area
The Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) was adopted by Saanich Council in 2012 and was developed to protect the Environmentally Signiﬁcant Areas (ESAs) within Saanich. The EDPA has become a very polarizing issue over the last couple of years. While initially created to protect those ecosystems that are disappearing as our municipality experiences growth, some residents feel that the bylaw is too restrictive and subjective. Recently, Saanich hired Diamond Head Consulting Ltd to prepare a report on the EDPA and recommend changes that would amend the current version to address the concerns that many residents and critics have had with the existing version.
Although the conversion on how to move forward with the current bylaw will continue, I believe the Diamond Head report highlights some keys points that need to be amended. Working with these recommendations as well as consulting the community to address other concerns, I feel we can amend the current version of the EDPA to create a new policy that will satisfy both critics and supporters.
Property Tax and Municipal Budgeting
This year, Saanich Council agreed to raise property taxes 3.53 percent. As housing affordability becomes a larger issue we need to align our municipal budgeting with our values. And those values should include keeping budget increases affordable for the average homeowner.
Keeping tax increases to a minimum requires making tough decisions. This year there was even talk about possibly defunding special events within Saanich. I don’t think this would be a healthy start to cutting the cost of doing business in Saanich. We need to encourage staff to find more efficient ways to operate within the municipality and throughout the region.
Increasing density and encouraging businesses to come to Saanich is way to generate revenue and keep taxes down. Working within the Official Community Plan and the Local Area Plans, we can find ways to bridge the gap between those residents that want to maintain the environment and beauty of Saanich and those residents that are open to density and new developments. This however is not the only answer. Langford, for example, still needed to increase their property tax by 3 percent this year, and there was a lot of new development this year within its borders.
Above all, we need to operate as efficiently as we can. We need to ensure that we can keep tax increases to a minimum while maintaining all the wonderful amenities that make Saanich a great place to live and work.
Light Rail Transit and Transportation
The idea of “Light Rail” or “Commuter Rail” has always been discussed as a solution to our transportation woes. I think the idea of Light Rail Transit from the Western Communities to the Downtown core is a great idea, but the business case may not be a reality until the population increases. That said, I feel its time to develop an actual LRT Plan for the region so that we make the appropriate land use decisions to accommodate the development of a LRT system for the region in the future. Even if Light Rail Transit is a ways off, we need to develop a plan now so it can be successful in the future.
As congestion increases due to the increase in population, we will need to continue to design our community to accommodate all modes of transportation. We need to work with BC Transit to ensure that all our communities are serviced the best they can be. Our roads will continually need to be upgraded to encourage other modes of transportation and to keep commuters safe.
As a younger person engaged in the discussions around local government, I know that there is a lack of enthusiasm about municipal government throughout the community. Younger generations are not as interested in local government as they could be and I feel that this can be different.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the Local Government political science class at Camosun College twice to speak to the students. The professor has asked to speak to the class about community engagement and municipal government. I was always amazed at how interested these young people can become once you engage them and give them a perspective they can relate to.
As a Saanich Councillor, I will continue to speak to the youth throughout our region about our community and the importance of getting involved. I will try to visit local high schools and middle schools to engage the generations that will be the ones making the decisions in the future. I also look forward to returning to Camosun College to speak to the students about municipal government and community engagement.