Two Saanich councillors stood alone opposing a development variance permit application that requires cutting down protected trees.
On May 11, seven of nine council members approved the variance to allow a three-lot subdivision at 2576 Arbutus Rd. The request called for variances in lot depth and building setbacks requiring the removal of 29 protected trees.
Couns. Judy Brownoff and Nathalie Chambers voted against the variance as they both felt smaller homes would better suit the lots and spare more protected trees.
Currently, there are 102 trees on the property identified through a construction impact assessment and tree preservation plan as being mostly Grand fir, Western Red Cedar, Pacific yew, arbutus, Garry oak and Douglas fir – which Chambers noted is an at-risk species.
While she and Brownoff acknowledged that based on the zoning of the property, the owner is within their right to build large dwellings, they both felt council could have negotiated for smaller homes to spare more trees.
“Variances are a leverage tool that council has to negotiate the best deal for the taxpayer, wildlife and public interest,” Chambers said, adding it’s not uncommon for councils to ask for smaller houses as a condition of a variance.
“[Developers] have got to get creative on these sites to be true to climate change,” Brownoff said. She pointed out that it was “unfortunate” the developer didn’t look at shrinking the homes to avoid the removal of protected trees and re-position them away from the road – possibly avoiding variances entirely.
“It would have had less of an impact on the natural environment,” she added.
Brownoff pointed out that council didn’t hear a lot of opposition from neighbours about the development but she expects complaints to come in when trees start coming down.