Saanich council will consider two bylaws to amend its controversial eco-bylaw on June 12.
After a five-hour public hearing last week, councillors voted to exempt 29 properties from the Environmental Development Permit Area. The EDPA bylaw, passed in 2012, is meant to protect sensitive and threatened environmental areas containing endangered species and habitats, including Garry oak ecosystems, by restricting the kinds of changes that can be made to properties.
Councillors voted 5-3 in favour and the amendment bylaw was given second and third readings.
They also voted on a second bylaw that would temporarily exempt properties zoned for single-family dwellings from the EDPA.
Both bylaws still require the fourth and final readings.
The EDPA has required exemptions or permits to alter or subdivide covered properties. Many property owners deny that there is any ecological significance on properties they have owned for decades and covered with patios, decks and gardens.
Anita Bull, founder of the Saanich Citizens for a Responsible EDPA, said she is happy for the 29 owners whose properties will be excluded from the EDPA.
“Saanich needs to find out where the truly special areas are and protect them, not people’s groomed lawns and gardens,” she said.
Meanwhile, a $50,000 independent review of the EDPA bylaw is being undertaken by Diamond Head Consulting of Vancouver. The review is expected to be released by the end of June, along with recommendations for improving the bylaw.
Many other municipalities have a similar bylaw to protect the environment, the district points out.
About five per cent of private properties in Saanich — about 2,200 — are within, or partly within, the EDPA. Fifty-two per cent of EDPA property is public land, mostly parks.