It’s been a week since the June 11th Cadboro Bay Local Area Plan workshop and I have been simmering ever since. What on earth happened in there? Well, to me it is evident that Saanich municipality is in cahoots with developers to push growth on Cadboro Bay residents whether they want it or not. The UDI Urban Development Institute Capital Region is a powerful non-profit association that has 170 corporate members involved in all facets of land development and planning. And yes, Saanich is a member. This body clearly promotes the development industry’s economic impact which provides government with tax revenues – 7 taxes altogether – Property Transfer Tax (PTT), Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST), Property Tax, Development Cost Levies (DCLs), Development Cost Charges (DCC), Community Amenity Contributions (CACs). So development and growth is certainly good for Saanich. And this is fine if the growth remains in urban areas. But remember that we are a village. Don’t we want to keep our charm? I understand that the cost of single family houses is ridiculously high but this is not the responsibility of Cadboro Bay residents. We were told that the approach to this sweeping growth in our village would be that developers would offer 10 to 20 percent over market value when approaching residents in older homes. They would essentially buy up whole streets and put in their taller multi-family homes. And these new condos or multi-family townhouses would not be able to contain affordable units. Only those with high salaries would be able to buy them. Oh wait….what about building 8-10 story buildings up Sinclair and perhaps 5 story buildings by Frank Hobbs School closer to Uvic to be able to add some affordable rentals. The higher the better for developers. And do all those residents want to sell up? Again, resident would be pitted against resident as some wouldn’t want to leave and others would. Not only that, but Saanich is sniffing out the Queen Alexandra grounds to build homes. They are in talks with VIHA should VIHA decide to sell. And what about the environmental impact on all the greenery, wildlife, streams in Cadboro Bay should we become a mini-Langford? And, I have to wonder, once all this growth has been established and we’ve ruined the village forever, won’t we have regrets? Slowly but surely the island is going to lose its identity forever. Why did we move here to Cadboro Bay in the first place? Because we love it the way it is.
We are fortunate to live in a semi-rural village area with lots of greenery but with a village centre. There is already infill going on, with monster houses going in, and I’m sure lots of applications for carriage homes on properties. That’s about as much as we can give. Sure, it would be nice for those who need it to have some social housing on church properties and sure it would be nice to redo the very old buildings that the shops occupy. But other than that we are perfect the way we are. Many in Cadboro Bay are elderly and want to be able to age in place, in their single story homes. Isn’t that being encouraged? But how can you if your home becomes at risk? It seems that the 2002 LAP plan that we approved is out the window.
I felt that this particular workshop was an ambush. We were presented with drastically amended “options” which included a minimum of 3 story buildings. And it would be nice to have up to 8 to 10. That would make the developers very happy. And we were given ultimatums like ….2 story buildings aren’t viable so the minimum would be 3 stories….if you want only 3 stories in this area then we have to make it up with taller buildings elsewhere in that area. A planner sat at every table to “help” us with our “choices”. We were given 3 hours to rush through the options, under pressure to achieve a result in that time slot. There was no time for questions and those who did ask questions were chastised. The whole process pitted resident against resident. Table 1 is to be admired for standing their ground and not choosing any option. It was clear when each table spoke that most of the participants really just wanted Cadboro Bay to stay as it was, maybe stick with the original plan. But Saanich Planning said, oh no, that isn’t possible. We need growth. And I’ll repeat that yes, we can have growth, but let it stay in already built up urban areas like Shelbourne, Mackenzie, Uptown. Once you lose the beautiful Cadboro Bay village atmosphere you moved to, you have lost it forever.
I might add that I have talked with many neighbours in recent weeks and because they lead busy lives and seem to be unaware of the latest workshops or didn’t think to check online, they have been largely indignant at the proposed changes. I have encouraged them to attend the online results and discussion session on June 22nd. Their voices matter. I don’t think the last public survey was reflective of our residents in general.
Never have I been so disappointed in our Saanich council and Mayor. And, an election is coming up.