Behind Saanich’s EDPA bylaw, a question of science

The science behind Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw — and the decision to rescind it — has reared its head again as interim measures are recommended.

In a report to go to council on Monday, Coun. Nathalie Chambers says the municipality’s Environmental Development Permit Area bylaw was rescinded based on a “faulty scientific process, leaving this important biological diversity with sub-standard protections.”

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She wants council to impose a moratorium on tree cutting — specifically Garry oaks — in the absence of environmental protections.

The controversial bylaw was rescinded in November 2017, based in part on reports by registered biologist Ted Lea.

The College of Applied Biology of B.C. found that Lea — a vocal opponent of the EDPA bylaw who was instrumental in council’s decision to overturn it — was in a conflict of interest.

The college said the Saanich resident authored several reports that advocated for certain properties to be removed from the EDPA while a member of the Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA Society, which advocated for the bylaw to be scrapped.

Society president Anita Bull defended Lea’s report and called Chambers’ measures an attempt to “reinstate” the EDPA. Her group plans to oppose the councillor’s recommendation.

In a newsletter, Bull says the motion appears to be “timed and based” on news of the college’s decision against Lea.

She said he was an adviser to the society and is not on its executive. The society, which Bull said has no formal members, per se, sends its newsletter to more than 1,000 “followers.”

Bull said it was a lack of science in the first place that led to the bylaw’s removal.

“The bylaw was rescinded because of a total lack of science when the EDPA was adopted in 2012,” she said. “There was no science. It was based on an aerial photo at least 20 years old.”

The EDPA bylaw was passed in 2012 with the goal of protecting sensitive ecosystems on about 2,200 private properties.

Saanich council voted 5-4 to rescind the bylaw in November 2017.

Council directed staff to come back with a report on the potential of developing a Saanich program that includes climate adaptation, a biodiversity conservation strategy, a stewardship program to serve as a policy framework for other environmental policies and programs, and a new EDPA.

Staff anticipate the report will come before council in late March or early April, said Coun. Colin Plant, who made the motion.

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