The District of Saanich is calling all nature lovers, ecosystem experts and climate specialists to join the Resilient Saanich technical committee to consult on the development of a framework to protect environmentally sensitive areas.
The District has begun work to craft a new environmental policy and biodiversity conservation framework and possibly replace the controversial Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw.
In 2017, the former Saanich council rescinded the EDPA bylaw in a 5-4 vote following months of heated public debate. At the time, critics called the EDPA restrictive and ineffective. Supporters acknowledged the issues but recommended the bylaw be reformed rather than done away with and stressed the need for a policy that protects the District’s sensitive environments.
The current council began to look at options for replacing the framework in 2019. After discussing an EDPA replacement plan at various council meetings throughout the year, the biodiversity framework was brought to council. It was approved in the fall under a new name – Resilient Saanich.
Mayor Fred Haynes explained the goal of the revised framework is to support biodiversity and protect the environment on municipal, public and private lands – not just development areas.
The Resilient Saanich terms of reference outline the project goals, including developing an environmental policy framework, assess current and new environmental policies and programs, bring forward options on a new EDPA bylaw and combine the three pillars of the plan – a biodiversity conservation strategy, enhanced stewardship of the environment and a climate plan which was adopted in January.
According to the District’s website, the development of the framework and public consultation are set to be completed sometime in mid-2022 with a budget of $250,000. The development plan has three milestones – each with several goals to be met. The includes launching the Resilient Saanich website, appointing a technical committee, conducting research and hiring experts.
Haynes noted it took many years to bring the EDPA forward and it was a long process to unwind it. He added there was “a two-year odyssey of consultations, open houses and public hearings” before council concluded a new environmental protection framework was needed.
Once the technical committee applications are in, Saanich council will appoint up to 10 members who will meet to work on the Resilient Saanich policy over the next few years.
Application submissions close at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 10. Interested residents are invited to apply online at saanich.ca using the membership application form. Those wishing to be kept up to date on the project can subscribe to receive the Resilient Saanich e-bulletins.