Over 500 people packed into a public hearing last night on the Vantreight development proposal and spoke almost unanimously in favour of protecting the region’s farms from urban sprawl.  Community members stayed until 1:00 AM presenting an exhaustive list of concerns and demanding that local food production should become a major priority for the Central Saanich Council.

“We expect council to stick to their election pledges and uphold the Official Community Plan,” said local resident Sue Stroud.  “There is no wiggle room here.  The OCP states unequivocally that our rural land may not be considered for commuter subdivisions and this is exactly what the developer Ian Vantreight is trying to do.”

Developer Ian Vantreight’s application to rezone rural and agricultural land for a luxury subdivision was criticized by many of the speakers.  In addition to violating Central Saanich’s Official Community Plan and the CRD Regional Sustainability Strategy concerns were raised about the lack of ground water in the area and the legality and environmental impact of the proposed sewage system.   The lack of concessions and amenities being offered to the community and its impact on the region’s biodiversity were also mentioned as important concerns.

“The Vantreight development proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to open the community up for urban sprawl,” said Gordon O’Connnor, Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Dogwood Initiative.  “Rezoning rural and agricultural land for development will raise the speculative value of the entire region and make it harder for every farm survive into the next generation.”

Ian Vantreight, the developer who was responsible for building subdivisions on the last remaining farm land in the Gordon Head area, approached council three years ago with a plan to build 246 homes on a small rural hilltop.  When the proposal was denied he returned with another for 87 homes that was also turned down and then again asking to build 57 houses in the same area.  His suggestion to rezone and develop land has been criticized by the CRD board, by the Advisory Planning Commission and by the Central Saanich municipal planners, but council disregarded this advice and has proceeded with preliminary approval.  Central Saanich Council is expected to produce a final decision on the matter at their meeting on August 3.