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Saanich bails on membership in developers' organization

Some had worried that municipality’s membership in an organization that serves real estate developers could be seen as a conflict of interest

The District of Saanich will not renew its membership in the Urban Development Institute in the capital region.

Following a motion from Coun. Colin Plant, council voted this week not to spend the $1,800 this year to rejoin the development industry organization, though Plant was quick to note he was not taking issue with the group.

“If anyone in this room at this chamber is looking for me to speak negatively about the UDI, you’ll be disappointed,” he said.

“This is not a motion calling on us to quit the UDI or send a letter expressing any dissatisfaction towards the organization. The motion is simple. It states that Saanich will not renew our membership.”

Plant noted that some members of the public had commented that membership in an organization that may disagree with the district on some matters gave the appearance of conflict, adding staff and council could still attend meetings and workshops without membership.

Plant said he expects staff and council colleagues to still meet with the organization as before.

Coun. Mena Westhaver said council’s membership in the UDI could be seen as a conflict of interest. “Council really needs to remain an unbiased body and demonstrate equity and transparency through the choices we make,” she said.

Coun. Karen Harper offered a dissenting voice, however, saying council was seeking the benefits of membership in the organization without contributing to it. “Which I find a little challenging,” she said. “From a strategic point of view, I think having these types of relationships is useful and these organizations won’t necessarily continue if there isn’t some sort of paying base for it.”

The UDI Capital Region describes itself on its website as a non-profit association that serves as a “professional resource” for the real estate development industry, “supporting industry professionals and affiliates with the information, education and representation they need to thrive in our local development industry.”

It says it has over 190 corporate members and represents “thousands of individuals involved in all facets of land development and planning.”

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