One of the more active community associations in the Greater Victoria area is disbanding. The Residents and Ratepayers of Central Saanich Society, raised from the ashes of the Central Saanich Ratepayers’ Association in 2009, failed to elect an executive board at its recent Annual General meeting, and so cannot continue to operate.
In its seven year of existence, RRoCSS sued the Municipality of Central Saanich for acting contrary to the Official Community Plan (OCP); led the fight to prevent the Peninsula Co-Op from developing a piece of rural land at the corner of West Saanich and Keating X Road; spoke out against densification proposals; held seven all-candidates meetings; and protested the Senanus pipeline project.
“It’s too bad. RRoCSS did a lot of good in its time.”
Former president Ian Cameron is forthright in his analysis of the reason for the demise. “It had problems from the start,” Cameron says. “I was asked to chair the inaugural meeting. Of the 40 people who showed up, 25 to 30 were worried that the last election had elected a development-minded council, and they wanted to put a brake on. The rest of the people wanted to make Central Saanich a better place to live, by welcoming newcomers, having picnics and pot-luck dinners, and so on.”
The new society soon found itself embroiled in a contentious issue. Local farmer Ian Vantreight, who had bought out his brother’s share in the various family holdings, wanted to subdivide a 15 HA rocky hilltop right on the border of North Saanich. The application was contrary to the OCP and RRoCSS decided to take action by suing the municipality to ensure that the OCP was honoured. The judge ruled that in spite of what the B.C. Local Government Act says, councils are not bound by an OCP, and found in favour of the Municipality. The Society lost an appeal.
Cameron is somewhat bitter about that case. “A lot of the impetus for going to court came from people who don’t live in Central Saanich,” he says. “They lived in North Saanich, on lots that had been good farmland, but they didn’t want more houses next door. My objection wasn’t to the development per se, I objected to the fact that it was contrary to the OCP. As soon as the case ended, they all bailed out, and so did the folks who wanted to hold potluck dinners and picnics. The case cost so much money that the Society never recovered,” said Cameron. When it was over, membership declined from a high of 125 to about 30. Cameron paid for a large part of the cost himself.
Perhaps more picnics and potlucks balanced with the battles may have led to the membership taking their hands out of their pockets during the call for directors, one can only speculate.
The loss of this community resource is being felt across the municipality. Coun.
Alicia Holman (nee Cormier) said that it’s her hope that, “after a well-deserved rest, the volunteers who gave so much to RROCS will find the energy and community support to form a new association,” adding, “Central Saanich needs you!”
Coun. Zeb King spoke of the long history of this and preceding ratepayers’
organizations crediting work that his grandmother did with just such a organization in the 1970s for protecting the Saanich Inlet from various environmental threats. “The municipality really needs some sort of a cross-Central Saanich organization that takes on various challenges and issues from across the municipality. At present, there really is nothing that takes on various issues – not just single issues or issues around a specific area,” said King
Ian Cameron concludes by saying, “It’s too bad. RRoCSS did a lot of good in its time.”