Saanich neighbourhood concerned new development will destroy Garry oak ecosystem
VICTORIA -- At a little more than two acres large, a property in a North Quadra neighbourhood of Saanich is almost park-like, and local residents want to preserve as much of it as possible.
Lots located at 972 and 972-B Milner Avenue have been granted a conditional approval to be subdivided by the District of Saanich. The approval is for as many as nine lots to be built in a largely untouched Garry oak ecosystem.
“We see a lot of wildlife passing through here,” said area resident Doug Hamm. “We see racoons, squirrels, and its one of the last stands of good Garry oaks in the area.”
Hamm, who has lived across from the property on Milner Avenue for 25 years, says he wants to preserve the urban forest. He says up until 2018, the Garry oaks on the property were protected under the District of Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw. Saanich Council repealed the restrictive bylaw in 2018.
“When that was removed the development application came in and we just think it is too dense,” said Hamm. “We think the subdivision is not going to allow a lot of these trees to remain.”
Its the loss of these trees that has neighbours asking Saanich to revoke the conditional approval for the proposed subdivision.
“There are 143 bylaw-protected trees in that lot, most of them are Garry oak but some are Douglas fir,” said area resident Mark Zuehlke. “We aren’t saying no development, what we are saying is a development that is respectful of the ecosystem that’s here.”
Neighbours are worried about the number of trees that would be removed to make room for the new homes in the proposed subdivision.
The property was already zoned for residential use and there have been no requests for variances so no action was required by Saanich council to grant conditional approval.
In a statement to CTV News, Saanich staff say, “This application was revised extensively by all staff before conditional approval was granted.”
The property is currently listed as two parcels of land for $3.998 million. The realtor who represents the Kasapi family, who have owned the property for decades, says the property is on the market with the conditional approval for the subdivision in place.
“Everything is being done per Saanich’s rules, guidelines being vetted out and the trees are already earmarked to be preserved,” said Neil Bosdet, a realtor with Royal Lepage Coast Capital Realty. “Saanich will look into it in more detail as the process move forward.”
Saanich staff say the future developer must meet specific conditions as the project moves forward, such as natural area protection.
However, residents say they’re still concerned about how much of the largely untouched property will be protected once development begins.
“We’re just concerned that these trees are not going to be preserved in the proposed subdivision plan,” said Hamm. “We’d like to see some responsible development that allows as many trees as possible to remain.”