Of many topics that crop up commonly in Saanich, three surface frequently in discussion: traffic speeds and safety, balancing the need for housing and development with environmental protection, and the upcoming civic election. All will be topics to watch for in 2022.
Roadway speeds and safety
Speeds on local roads, overall safety and the impact of those elements on motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are of great concern to many Saanich residents.
Better Mobility Saanich, a community-based advocacy group, is among those pressing for lower speed limits and better transportation infrastructure in the district.
In response to these requests, the District of Saanich has shifted its focus from vehicle-centric policies and designs to an approach that prioritizes active travel such as walking and cycling – policies guided by its Active Transportation Plan.
The plan aims to complete projects that reduce or eliminate conflicts between road users travelling at different speeds, Saanich communications manager Megan Catalano said. The long-term plan not only includes lessening road speeds in certain areas, but it also takes a holistic approach combining thoughtful design and targeted enforcement, she added.
Showing their commitment to this area, Saanich council voted in early 2021 to invest an additional $2 million each year in new infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. This funding brings the district’s total investment in safer roadways to $58 million over the next three years.
The installation of new sidewalks, new crosswalks and other improvements are in the works for 2022.
Environment vs. development
Balancing the housing crisis and the climate crisis often stirs up controversy.
An example of these issues butting heads came in August 2021, when public backlash delayed a hearing on a proposed development at 1544 Christmas Ave. where a multi-storey apartment building is now being developed.
While the applicant and their biologist pre-determined prior to the Aug. 10 meeting that the area the development would be built on does not meet the definition of a wetland, Coun. Nathalie Chambers and many in the gallery for the public input portion of the meeting took issue with this.
Chambers pushed for the delay of this decision until a biologist could be present to answer questions about whether the species and plants living on this land were wetland species.
Council discussions continued on Aug. 23, with the applicant’s biologist emphasizing in the meeting that the site is not a wetland – the development then moved forward in a 6-2 vote.
When issues like this arise, Mayor Fred Haynes said that striking a fine balance to address both needs is imperative.
Saanich’s municipal election is approaching and will swing into full gear by October 2022.
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes was elected in 2018 and announced that he will be running for office again in 2022.
Dean Murdock, a former three-term Saanich councillor and advocate for active transportation, launched his mayoral campaign almost a year in advance, announcing his intention to run on Oct. 28.
More candidates for the mayor seat and eight council seats will continue to declare in the lead-up to the election.
School trustees are also voted for in the same election – trustees guide the work of their school district when determining values, policies and annual budget priorities.
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