Tag Archives: bylaw

Finding relief from cannons for neighbours

Saanich pressured to ban bird cannons
By Saanich News September 12, 2012

When Canada geese were continually attacking blueberry crops at Beckwith Farm in 2010, the farm launched its bird predation plan – which includes a noise cannon.

“The predator kites and other visual deterrents had no effect on the Canada geese,” said Wayne Hopkins, president of Beckwith Farm. “These geese were landing and eating the leaves. They killed somewhere around 12,000 plants in a matter of a few days. It all happened very quickly, so we had to employ noise devices very quickly.”

One such device was a propane cannon, which, when fired, creates a 130 decibel bang to scare birds away. The birds aren’t too fond of the noise, and neighbours near the farm aren’t either.

“It defies common sense to use propane cannons as a bird deterrent 200m from urban homes in long established Saanich neighbourhoods,” reads a brochure from the Concerned Neighbours of Beckwith Farm organization.

“The noise generated by propane cannons firing 200m from urban homes is debilitating to a large number of residents … causing significant impacts to health, livelihood and happiness.”

No propane cannons have gone off at the Blenkinsop Valley farm since 2010, and Hopkins credits that to the predation management plan. Cannons are used as a last-ditch effort when visual deterrents and other audible devices don’t work.

But neighbours aren’t content that there’s a chance the cannons could go off again, at any time, in the event of a new flock of birds swarms onto the nearby crops.

Saanich councillors Susan Brice and Nichola Wade brought forward a motion at Monday’s council meeting asking staff to look at options regarding cannons to mitigate friction between neighbours and the farm.

“The two of us feel we’re very supportive of agriculture in Saanich, however it is an inappropriate mechanism to use propane cannons in such a proximate distance to residential developments,” Wade said.

The two councillors mentioned ongoing frustrations dealing with the provincial government, as the use of propane cannons comes under the Ministry of Agriculture’s authority, and the Right to Farm legislation trumps municipal bylaws.

“Anything that can be explored that’s going to give the neighbours in this area some relief is worth putting on the table,” said Coun. Dean Murdock.

Hopkins says Saanich’s intervening is all politicking, and he anticipates the municipality won’t be able to get far with the province.

“The fact is (propane cannons are) a last report, and unless Saanich or whoever has a better alternative as a last resort, I think they’re here to stay,” Hopkins said.
Council unanimously agreed to have staff look into options.

It’s time to look at permitting suites in all areas of Saanich

Suites study lacks terms, time line
By Natalie North – Saanich News

Saanichites living south of McKenzie Avenue have had a year to legalize their secondary suite – and 30 homeowners have done just that. But residents outside of the selected study area, including those in neighbourhoods already dense with illegal suites, are still not sure when they’ll be able to legalize their suite.

And as it turns out, council doesn’t know either.

Coun. Dean Murdock is critical of the lack of terms placed on the “selected study” and questions if that title is a misnomer. He says he’s hearing complaints from residents north of McKenzie who want to legalize their suite, but can’t.

“There was no time line (placed) on how we would revisit it, and furthermore, there were no indicators for how we would measure whether or not it was successful, other than we would know based on the number of permits issued or what the uptake was like,” Murdock said.

The councillor is currently door-knocking in preparation for November’s municipal election, and says residents in the High Quadra area have asked what options they have to own a legal suite.

The president of the North Quadra Land Use Association says he’s experienced a lack of concerns from area residents who want a legal suite.

“I don’t know exactly how (Saanich is) going to deal with this issue and how many people are waiting,” said Haji Charania. “To the best of my knowledge, the experience in other municipalities is legalizing suites is met with moot response.” And so far in Saanich, that appears to be the case.

Mayor Frank Leonard says a change to the study would have to be instigated once a report from the planning department is submitted to council, which would happen no earlier than September.

The municipality’s director of planning, however, maintains the request to revisit the issue needs to come from council.

“(The intent of the study) was to focus on this issue in one defined area, take a review of it at some point in time and say, ‘Are there things that we can learn from this?’” said Sharon Hvozdanski. “But there was no specific time set by council in terms of when this matter would come back to them.”

Don Gunn, vice-president of the Gordon Head Residents Association, calls legalizing existing suites a foregone conclusion, because like Charania, he hasn’t heard his neighbours request the ability to legalize their suite.

Leonard suggests those residents outside of the study area who want a legal suite should contact their neighbourhood association. It could potentially expedite the process by bringing the issue to the forefront of the association’s agenda.

Investing in priorities

Saanich Council is putting the finishing touches on the 2011 budget that focuses on building a stronger, healthier, and safer community. The budget will be presented to Council for adoption the first week of May. Here are some of the highlights:

We’re making mobility our priority. Saanich residents can enjoy more of this great community on foot or on bike with over $2 million in new sidewalks and bike lanes. We’re investing in roads like Tattersal and Admirals – making them into pedestrian-friendly corridors and not the car-centred thoroughfares they’ve become.

A healthy community continues to be Saanich’s goal. This year we’ll complete a $3 million renewal of our playgrounds, sport courts, and tennis courts in parks all over Saanich. The park upgrades give Saanich children and families places to be active in their own neighbourhood. We’re doing more at our community centres too with a new arts centre at Cedar Hill and a new roof on Saanich Commonwealth Place. As Chair of the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, I’m thrilled with these important investments in an active community.

We’re putting safety at the top of the list. Saanich will hire five new firefighters and add more funds for community policing programmes. We’re fortunate to have such incredible, community-centred service in our police and fire departments.

Finally, we’re connecting with residents in new ways. This year, we’ll launch a new web and social media presence. We’re creating new ways to reach out to residents and hear from neighbours about local issues. Facebook and Twitter are just a few of the tools we’re adding to the communication toolkit.

It’s important to me that we invest tax dollars in Saanich residents’ priorities. I hear feedback by email, phone, and on the doorstep that people want to see investments in healthy, walkable neighbourhoods. I think this year’s budget helps us move in that direction, but there’s a lot more that we can do.

What are your priorities? Please send me your thoughts (click on the “Contact Me” tab above).

Chickens: Coming soon to Saanich backyards

Survey says: chickens OK in Saanich backyards
Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it’s being welcomed into Saanich with relatively open arms.

The results of the municipality’s backyard chicken survey shows that 84 per cent of respondents supported the presence of feathered friends in local yards.

“It’s a very positive step,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who’s campaigned for Saanich to bring its bylaws up to par with neighbouring municipalities. “It puts us on a course of action that allows us to begin to address food security and local production.”

Council will receive a recommendation from staff in the next few weeks about how to best to change existing rules. There will also be more in-depth dialogue around potential issues.

The majority of the 528 survey respondents supported allowing chickens on properties with an area of at least 560 square-metres, the smaller of the two residential zoning options proposed.

Saanich planner Jane Evans says if council approves the 560 sq.-m. option, as many as 77 per cent of Saanich’s 32,500 single family homes will be eligible to have backyard chickens.

The bylaw, if approved, would allow for up to five hens – though not roosters – to be kept in a pen in the backyard of a single family lot. Eggs can’t be sold and the chickens can’t be slaughtered.

The current bylaw prohibits keeping fowl on lots smaller than 1,115 sq.-m.

There are still a number of options on the table that council needs to discuss, including how chickens and coops will be mandated.

“We’d highly recommend there be a registration process so the properties can be identified and we’ll be able to disseminate information to the owner,” Evans said.

Murdock, chair of the healthy Saanich advisory committee, now hopes to use these results to springboard to working on an urban food production strategy and action plan before spring.

“There’ll always be a growing marketplace for the local farmer, but we need to put in mechanisms that open up that marketplace even more for local food producers,” he said, citing initiatives like pocket markets, allotment gardens and green roofs.

“We’ll hopefully be bringing Saanich into harmony with the regulations of our neighbouring jurisdictions. If you move from Victoria to Saanich, you can bring your chickens with you.”

Urban hens in Saanich

Saanich looking at urban chicken options
Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Feathered fowl could be moving in next door to you – but first, Saanich wants to know what you think about egg-laying chickens in your neighbourhood’s backyards.

Coun. Dean Murdock says the current bylaw – restricting the keeping of chickens on properties smaller than 1,114.8 sq.-metres – is out of date and needs to be updated to be inclusive of the Official Community Plan goals.

“We’re really inconsistent with current efforts to move food production closer to home,” he said. “I think this is something that will generally be supported, but of course there are concerns about noise and odour.”

The OCP promotes Saanich’s vision of becoming “a sustainable community where residents enjoy food security through the promotion of urban farming.”

The existing bylaw restricts that vision, Murdock said.

The survey can be found online at Saanich.ca. As well, hard copies can be picked up from the municipal hall (770 Vernon Ave.).

Residents have until 4:30 p.m., Dec. 10, to complete the survey.

Open houses are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 24/25) from 3 to 8:30 p.m. at municipal hall to discuss urban chickens.

Urban Deer

SAANICH COUNCILLOR SAYS SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT DEER PROBLEM

Sep 20, 2010

A SAANICH COUNCILLOR HAS ADDED HIS VOICE TO LOCAL POLITICIANS CONCERNED ABOUT THE CRD’S BURGEONING URBAN DEER POPULATION

OAK BAY’S MAYOR HAS OPENED THE DOOR TO SUGGESTIONS ABOUT DEALING WITH THE DEER AND DEAN MURDOCK AGREES THAT SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE.

SPEAKING ON CFAX 1070 WITH MURRAY LANGDON MONDAY, MURDOCK SAYS THE FIRST STEP IS TO FIGURE OUT HOW MANY DEER ARE OUT THERE IN URBAN AREAS

“if we are actually looking at reducing the population, we need to know what the current numbers are, and if we are being successful in the measures we are going to take, and then of course the most important ingredient in that conversation is, what are those measures”

MURDOCK SAYS HE IS OPEN FOR A CONVERSATION, WITH A CULL AS A LAST RESORT METHOD.

Identifying opportunities for affortable units

Saanich approach to affordable housing making homes more costly, homebuilders association says
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Saanich’s affordable housing fund actually makes homes less affordable, claims the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

“What’s happening is, rather than creating affordable units, (Saanich is) contributing to a lack of affordable housing in Greater Victoria,” Casey Edge, executive officer of the CHBA’s Victoria branch said. “Every time the cost of housing increases, consumers get knocked out of the market because they can no longer afford to buy.”

The municipal affordable housing fund began in 2008. It was originally council’s response to developers who wanted Saanich to do more than make an annual contribution of $297,000 to the Capital Regional District’s Housing Trust Fund.

Right now, developers are encouraged to contribute actual units, which can then be sold as affordable housing. Alternatively, they can make a cash contribution to the affordable housing fund – the current formula calls for $1,500 per unit in the development. The latter option has proven the more popular one among developers.

“CRD housing has not been receptive to (having) one unit here, one unit there,” Mayor Frank Leonard said. “I’d love for somebody to knock on our door with a solution.”

Leonard notes that money in the fund has contributed to affordable housing, pointing to the Pacifica Housing complex on Douglas Street.

But in Edge’s opinion, the municipality needs to come up with a better plan.

Though $1,500 seems small, he points out it’s another cost to the consumer buying a home.

“That’s something elected officials seem to have troubles getting their heads around. It’s not a small amount of money when someone now doesn’t qualify for a mortgage because the costs keep going up,” he said.

Developers, in turn, need more direction from council about how much is expected to be contributed towards affordable housing, transportation and sustainability features.

Though Saanich’s affordable housing fund currently sits at $91,500, Saanich is expecting more than $100,000 from a handful of developments currently in the pipeline.

However, councillors have repeatedly said that affordable housing units are worth significantly more than what’s raised by cash contributions.

“It’s generated some missed opportunities where we could’ve incorporated affordable units into larger projects,” Coun. Dean Murdock said. “Even though we have the advantage of a cash contribution, it would’ve been far more advantageous to have units.”

With physical units in its inventory, Saanich would have a better chance to negotiate with developers to secure affordable units in major centres, Murdock said.

“What we’ll need to see is a strategy on how to utilize that funding to leverage the greatest advantage to generate units in the community,” he said. “I suspect as we continue to generate funds we will see more opportunities to locate affordable housing units and to build up that inventory of units.”

Secondary suites provide badly-needed housing

For landlords and tenants, back to school housing crunch make for tense relationships

By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Demand is down, but that doesn’t mean the University of Victoria needs fewer dorm rooms on campus.

“If we had another building we would fill it. People like to live on campus because it’s so convenient,” said Kathryn MacLeod, director of residence services at UVic. “I don’t think we’re in the danger of not needing more … It would be great to have more residences.”

At this time last year, there were more than 1,400 people on a waitlist for student housing.

But last week – just days before the semester started – there were only 179 people waiting for a bed.

MacLeod attributes that to better information given to returning students, telling them their chances of securing on-campus housing are slim.

And with a slightly higher number of students at the school this year, more will be living in apartments and basement suites in the community.

Rob Hanzek, who rents out the lower level of his home in Gordon Head, reminds landlords to ensure they have a very clear tenancy agreement in place and know their rights if they end up having to deal with “slum” tenants.

Last year, he said, he rented his suite to two students who held loud parties that repeatedly drew the ire of neighbours and police, and damaged his home before moving out.

“I thought I was being diligent the first time around. I spoke to their previous landlords and I did all of the due diligence that I normally do with any tenant, and there weren’t any flags that came up,” Hanzek said.

When he tried to give a 30-day notice to end their tenancy, the students disputed it and stayed another 30 days in his home.

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, which includes the Residential Tenancy Branch, says disputes are common. The best way to avoid them is through landlord-tenant co-operation.

Both parties have extensive responsibilities and rights to ensure the others’ are protected.

Saanich is currently looking at legalizing secondary suites, which aims to give renters and landlords another level of comfort and security. Since secondary suites have already existed, legalizing them would allow for better enforcement, said Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock.

“What I think it would do is improve the living conditions …” he said.

“It’ll allow Saanich to evaluate whether or not those suites provide the standard of living, that they conform to the building code, that they are appropriate for inhabitants.

“Permitting secondary suites is an effective way for council to bring some organization to a rather chaotic situation.”

Hanzek encourages both landlords and tenants to brush up on the Residential Tenancy Act so they aren’t put in a sticky situation long after the fact.

“I’m renting (my suite) out again and I fortunately found tenants whose parents were very involved in their pursuit of a location, so I have a good rapport,” he said. “But I always have it in the back of my mind that it could happen again, there’s no question about that.”

Secondary Suites Public Hearing

SECONDARY SUITES IN SAANICH ON DISCUSSION TABLE

Jun 16, 2010 CFAX 1070

A PUBLIC HEARING IS SCHEDULED FOR NEXT WEEK ON THE ISSUE OF PERMITTING SECONDARY SUITES SOUTH OF MCKENZIE IN SAANICH. SAANICH COUNCILLOR DEAN MURDOCK SAYS THERE ARE A NUMBER OF QUESTIONS ON THE TABLE, WHICH HE THINKS WILL BE TACKLED AT THE MEETING.

“There were a number of questions raised around restrictions, for those who say have a boarder or a student living with them, and they would possibly want to have a secondary suite as well, confusion around the wording in the by-law amendment, whether or not dual purposes will be permitted, how you would accomodate vehicle parking in that situation, whether or not you would still be allowed to have family members stay with you as well as secondary suites.”

SAANICH IS NOT THE ONLY MUNICIPALITY WRESTLING WITH THE IDEA OF PERMITTING SECONDARY SUITES. OAK BAY JUST RELEASED THE RESULTS OF A PUBLIC FEED BACK CAMPAIGN ON THE ISSUE WHICH FOUND A VERY SLIM MAJORITY IN FAVOUR OF PERMITTING SECONDARY SUITES THE MEETING TAKES PLACE TUESDAY AT 730 PM IN THE COUNCIL CHAMBER.

Maintaining Momentum: Saanich Climate Action Plan

Saanich Council recently adopted the Climate Action Plan. The plan is a blueprint to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in the community by one-third over the next decade. We’ve also set an aggressive target of 50 per cent reduction for all municipal operations during the same time. This week, Council amended the Sustainable Saanich Official Community Plan to enshrine the reduction targets as part of our community growth strategy.

The plan has been many years in the making and is the product of extensive community collaboration and engagement. I am inspired by the ideas and knowledge that came from the community and shaped the initiatives within the plan. The incredible work by staff to develop the ideas into a series of short- and long-term initiatives has given Council a truly impressive document with which to guide our activities as we cut our emissions.

It’s important to celebrate this important milestone, but we cannot lose our momentum. Our climate is under threat and we must take action to cut our emissions and reduce our energy use. The plan identifies a number of short-term initiatives, including building more sidewalks and bikelanes, improving bus shelters, corporate car pooling and bus passes. These initiatives are underway and Council has accelerated pedestrian, cycling, and transit infrastructure improvements. Council added an extra half million dollars to the 2010 sidewalk budget. In 2009, Saanich installed 3.1 kilometres of new sidewalk.

Long-term initiatives, including a district-wide mobility action plan and rapid transit on the Douglas corridor, will have a major impact on our infrastructure investments. They require collaboration with the CRD, BC Transit, provincial Ministries, and neighbouring municipalities to be successful. To meet these longer-term objectives, we must have a plan in place to secure funding and cooperation with regional partners and senior levels of government.

As Saanich rolls out the climate action initiatives, we will continue to engage residents to raise awareness about new climate-friendly programs and infrastructure. The plan is a living document and it will evolve to meet community needs and ensure that we achieve our 2020 targets.

Ultimately the success of the Climate Action Plan comes down to individual decisions. We all have a role to play in reducing our emissions and energy use. The choices we make as commuters, consumers, renters, and homeowners will have a profound impact on our climate.

The climate challenge is our common challenge. Saanich is committed to achieving our 2020 targets. I know that by working together we will be successful.