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Community Building in Central Saanich

Jan 07, 2017 Editor

by Sue Stroud, citizen reporter

Jane Jacob’s quote is used by the new Central Saanich Community Association (CSCA) to sum up its goal of citizen engagement in a sustainable community. President Celeste Zimmer says, “We believe in partnering with others so that people know how to get together on the democratic process and feel community support.”

The different areas of Central Saanich like Marigold, Tanner Ridge, Brentwood Bay and Saanichton have ongoing concerns regarding development and infill in their neighbourhoods. While recognizing the need to protect farmland, most people in Central Saanich fail to expect change within the allowable growth areas. Density is a surprise to many when it means four and five storey buildings, duplexes and rows of townhouses where there were only single detached homes and low-rises before.

Zimmer and the Board of CSCA believe they have a role in helping citizens make their voices heard when developments come forward so that whatever is built fits the community. She has no illusions – this means give and take negotiation   but she is also aware that many residents do not know how land around them is zoned or how to have a say in the decisions that come before Central Saanich Council.

A case in point is the recent Verdier House property in Brentwood Bay, which raised concerns in the community when it was suggested the old non-designated heritage house be moved off-site to allow for a large apartment block. Members of the public wrote letters to council, held community meetings and postered on the issue, and saved Verdier House from the planned move. It will remain on site and be incorporated into the planned development.

Zimmer sees this as the kind of action that her group could help co-ordinate and in fact is the kind of community engagement that would allow people to have their say before developments are brought forward. “If people know what tools there are, when and how to be heard, what a public hearing is, what the Official Community Plan is, they can more easily design the kind of community they’d like to see around them,” says Zimmer.

Their mission statement reflects this and adds: “The CSCA will serve to strengthen and unify community members interested in common goals in order to make the Central Saanich region a better, more vibrant, and healthier place to live, learn, work and play.”

CSCA will hold an annual general meeting in early 2017 to which all community members are invited. A brochure and membership form is available on their website.

Michele Bond, who is also on the Board of CSCA, came to be part of the group through her involvement with the Tanner Ridge Community and their six-year struggle with Foundation Organics at Stanhope Farms. Through her efforts and those of the people who responded to her original letter in the Peninsula News Review a neighbourhood group was formed that fought to see that the composting facility complied with the bylaws and the licence that it was originally granted, and stopped producing the kind of air pollution that made living and working in the area of the farm very unpleasant.

The Tanner Ridge Community developed a regular email newsletter that keeps its members up to date on the Foundation Organics situation but also on many other local issues.

Michele sees the new group, CSCA as a way of keeping neighbourhoods aware of what is being proposed for them and helping them deal with the impacts that unexpected changes may have on them.

Zimmer and Bond are expecting the CSCA AGM will show them what members are interested in pursuing and enable them to set out plans and meetings to meet those interests. Education will be a central focus. “We hope to deal with the watershed issues in our community,” Zimmer says. “Everyone is welcome to participate.”

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