What we want our communities to look like is something local governments determine. (Citizen file)

What we want our communities to look like is something local governments determine. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Local governments must protect the public interest

Government would be utterly foolish to abdicate this role

Developers want to make money. Looking out for the public good is the province of government. Government would be utterly foolish to abdicate this role, believing that private industry will somehow take care of it.

At a recent Cowichan Valley Regional District electoral area services committee meeting the members took a hard look at a proposed development for the Laketown Ranch lands in Youbou. Should it go ahead, this is a substantial project that will build out more than 200 homes, outside of a designated growth area.

Electoral area directors voted to place some requirements on the development, namely that it not be restricted to a certain age group (it is not uncommon to see housing limited to seniors only, particularly in condominiums) , and to forbid daily rentals of any of the units. They declined to limit rentals to a minimum of month-long stays.

This last is a mistake, but more on that in a minute.

It was notable in the discussion that Youbou area director Klaus Kuhn expressed frustration that any restrictions were being put on the development by the CVRD at all, instead espousing faith in the developer.

That is a dangerous attitude, and it is fortunate that his fellow directors overruled him. Developers are not, by and large, interested in the big picture of building the best possible community for everyone when they take on a project. They are trying to make as much money off the development of a particular piece of property as possible. That’s not to say that in doing so they won’t include some great amenities to try to lure buyers, but it is not their primary concern.

That’s why it is vital that it remains the focus of local government, whose job it is to keep an eagle eye on that big picture and how any one development fits into it. It’s their job to ensure that things like sidewalks, greenspaces, affordability, traffic and public transit are taken into consideration, since so many of the costs of not doing so end up on the public purse, often long after any particular developer has packed up and shipped out.

The reason the Laketown development is even being considered is that it does hold great promise as affordable housing. As such it is key that the CVRD ensures that it serves that purpose — so bringing the axe down on Airbnb hopefuls (short term rentals have massacred the housing stock in many areas, as long-term rentals are converted for higher profits) is the only way to go. Hence why we also think allowing no stays shorter than a month needs to be done.

Our local government must look out for our interests. It is their job to do so, not a developer’s.