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LETTER: Trend towards pre-zoning bypasses democratic processes

Twice recently, Cadboro Bay residents rejected attempts to get heavy densification into the bay through changing the local area plan. Now Saanich officials have been claiming that local area plans do not fit the official community plan, and can thus be overridden/bypassed.

This looks like an interesting attempt at subverting traditions of local democracy, similar to the missing middle housing initiative in Victoria, which was born from flawed reasoning from the development lobby in an attempt to bypass traditional local input processes, a dangerous trend against local democracy.

This would be accomplished with what they euphemistically refer to as pre-zoning, something that would allow rezoning that can bypass traditional democratic processes including council votes, community feedback – e.g., from resident associations, through public hearings, etc.

Politicians can try to obscure, muddy the water, or deny that pre-zoning is used to waive public hearings by saying that there will be public hearings for pre-zoning certain areas, but such logic brings to mind Kafka’s ghost with absurd ‘hearings to end hearings’. A key purpose of ‘pre-zoning’ is to waive hearings for individual zoning processes, in other words doing away with by far the vast majority of public hearings for zoning, thus severely curtailing local democratic political power and input, which also appears to be a key purpose of pre-zoning.

The OCP itself has already been used to waive public hearings on zoning, with the questionable rationale provided that it was necessary as a result of the pandemic. Even Kafka didn’t come up with that one.

The OCP update process, is itself deeply flawed, utilizing once again a simple online survey that was open to anyone in the world, who could fill out the form as many times as they like without stating who they are, or where they live, something rife for outside manipulation. Once again, using a dubious ‘local survey’ loaded with questions pushing a development/densification agenda looks a lot less like it is driven by local democratic input, than by wider political party interests aligned with the interests of the development lobby, who have communicated to Saanich on this subject.

Sasha Izard