Saanich rejected an unsolicited offer by one consultant to take the consultant reviewing a controversial bylaw on a field trip.
Council voted 7-1, with Mayor Richard Atwell opposed, to reject an offer by Aqua-Tex Scientific Consulting Ltd. to take Diamond Head Consulting on a guided one-day field trip as Diamond Head reviews Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw. The trip would see Aqua-Tex staff take Diamond Head staff on a tour of “properties on which the application of the EDPA has been considered controversial.”
Monday’s vote comes before a public hearing on 29 EDPA properties, set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Garth Homer centre auditorium.
Council received the request last month in form of a letter. “In discussions with Diamond Head staff, it is apparent that the Diamond Head staff have not walked the properties which have been brought to the attention of mayor and council, especially with respect to having the properties removed from the EDPA atlas,” the letter read. “Without this on-the-ground experience, it is hard for them to provide informed comment on either the ecological function of those properties or how a policy and / or regulatory framework should be designed to optimally manage the plant communities on those, and other, properties in Saanich.”
Aqua-Tex Scientific noted among other points that “Diamond Head staff have indicated that they do not have any working experience with Garry oak and associated ecosystems and believe that a field trip would help them understand the major issues.”
The majority of council and staff, however, noted that the request would change the substance and timing of the review.
Coun. Leif Wergeland said council hired the consultant to look at the overall EDPA policy by comparing it to other municipalities, not provide assessments of specific properties. Coun. Vicki Sanders and Coun. Colin Plant agreed. Sanders said the offer would expand the scope of the work and unnecessarily delay it. Plant meanwhile said that he is concerned that opening up the process now would encourage others to come forward to the point of being counter-productive. “Let’s get on with it,” added Coun. Susan Brice, a sentiment shared by Coun. Fred Haynes. “Let’s move it along,” he said. “That is the appropriate thing to do in this case.”
Mayor Richard Atwell disagreed. “This [field trip] would be useful,” he said. “For me, where the contentions are in the EDPA, is between the theory of it and practice of it,” he said. “On the practice side, it is the ground-truthing that has the most at issue.”
DHC is expected to deliver its final report in early June.