Saanich councillor encourages owners to be environmental stewards of their land

A Saanich council member frustrated by the municipality’s inability to stop development of lands with Garry oak ecosystems is aiming to inspire landowners to be environmental stewards of their own properties.

Coun. Nathalie Chambers is launching a website called the Stewards of Saanich at gosapiensgo.com to educate and inspire others to adopt voluntary stewardship. “So we don’t have to wait,” Chambers said. “We can all be exemplary.”

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The move follows a municipal decision to grant conditional approval to subdivide 972 and 978-B Milner Ave. in the North Quadra area. The plan, which angered many neighbouring residents, would permit nine single-family homes on slightly more than two acres of largely undeveloped land.

Saanich’s approving officer granted conditional approval to subdivide the two lots, owned by Victoria’s Kasapi Construction, with conditions attached, including the requirement that three areas be set aside as natural sites. Their size has yet to be determined.

Municipal approving officers are appointed by councils under B.C.’s Land Title Act to deal with matters such as subdivisions, ensuring applications conform to provincial and municipal rules. The quasi-judicial role is independent of other municipal staff and council.

Neighbours are unhappy with the plan, which is expected to result in the loss of at least 36 trees. Conditional approval requires that the trees be replaced, but opponents say it’s impossible to replace mature Garry oaks.

The two Milner Avenue lots are listed for sale, and residents want the conditional approval to be rescinded.

Chambers said there is nothing she can do to change the Milner Avenue decision, and she is disappointed with the time it’s taking for Saanich to develop a new environmental development plan, saying it’s likely going to run into the next term for council members.

Saanich rescinded its previous environmental development permit area bylaw in 2017, after adopting it in 2012. The controversial bylaw was aimed at protecting sensitive ecosystems, but many residents opposed it, saying it was too restrictive. A divided council eventually decided it was not workable.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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