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Population

17,385

Population density

422.0/km2 (1,092.9/sq mi)

Land area

41.33 km2 (15.96 sq mi)

Territory

Tsawout & Tsartlip Nations

Main Industries

agriculture, manufacturing

When Alice Bacon and her husband decided to open a retail store and cafe, they didn’t have to look far to find the perfect location. “Having looked all over South Vancouver Island, Central Saanich became obvious as the right place to be. We received a great deal of support from the Mayor and Council, and we appreciated the fact that they really make an effort to engage with the business community,” says Bacon, who opened the Brentwood Bay Village Emporium in 2015.

Picture-perfect Central Saanich is a vibrant community in the Saanich Peninsula, approximately 21 kilometres north of Victoria, whose compact villages are nestled between forests and farms. Alongside North Saanich, the area is lauded for its small-town character, community pride and neighbourly residents that welcome diversity. 

“We love the interesting residential mix in Central Saanich,” says Alice, “because we have lots of farming families and a great mix of socioeconomic backgrounds, which means no matter what your business, you’ll find your customer. And, like everywhere else, the municipality is growing, and with that comes an emphasis on supporting the local businesses who serve that local, growing residential base. I think people are seeing the advantage both financially and ecologically, of keeping it local.”

The municipality is known for its rich agricultural heritage, having been established in the 1800s as a farming community. Now it’s home to both hobby and working farms, nestled among vineyards, country estates and flourishing retail centres.

In 2021, the District was listed as the second most livable city in BC on Maclean’s Best Communities list, and 22nd overall, ranking highly on internet access, community involvement and population growth.

The District has close ties with the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations, within whose unceded traditional territories it is located. SȾÁUTW̱(Tsawout) and W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip) First Nations are part of the Corporation of the District of Central Saanich Letters Patent, the document giving legal status to the municipality, a unique inclusion within BC and in Canada.

Business Climate

Central Saanich’s economy prioritizes commercial development, diverse housing and thoughtful growth that respects the natural environment within which its residents live. 

Over 17,000 people call the community home, with a median age of 49, with a preponderance of larger, family-based households. The average household income is $86,622.

Close relationships: Residents of neighbouring SȾÁUTW̱(Tsawout) and W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip) First Nations are also residents of Central Saanich and are free to vote, run for office, and otherwise participate in municipal functions. The bylaws of the District of Central Saanich, however, do not have jurisdiction over the First Nation lands. The District considers the relationship with the Tsawout and Tstartlip Nations to be of utmost importance.

Protecting their home: Central Saanich has a range of natural environments, which include marine shoreline, wetlands, creeks and streams, rocky bluffs and steep, treed upland ecosystems. The District’s natural environment and biodiversity provide a variety of ecosystem services, and are highly valued by its residents. 

Balanced population: 61.27% of the population are aged between 15 to 64 years old, while 21.64% make up the younger population, who are expected to be part of the labour force in less than two decades.

Encouraging entrepreneurs: Just over 50% of the district’s employers are small businesses. The District encourages entrepreneurship and supports both startups and established businesses in becoming established and when they expand.

Urban access: Downtown Victoria is a quick trip by car or bus, while the Victoria International Airport and Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal (connecting the Island to the lower mainland) are nearby. The Brentwood Bay Ferry connects the Peninsula to the Malahat.

Celebrating their roots: Visitors come from across Vancouver Island and the lower mainland for the annual Saanich Fair. The celebration of local agricultural life has been presented for over 140 years and can best be described as an old-fashioned farm fair. 

Community Assets

Central Saanich’s attraction as a place to locate their business is written right into its name, says Stacey Toews, co-founder of Level Ground Co. “It is central to where we need to be to move our product, both up- and off-Island and onto ferries and airplanes – both of which are a short distance away. Downtown Victoria is less than half hour away, with access to the rest of the Island via ferry just a few minutes away too. So accessibility is never a problem. And frankly, there’s never rush hour in Central Saanich.”

Compact villages: The Villages of Brentwood Bay and Saanichton are the primary retail and service centres, with vibrant streetscapes containing a range of retail stores and personal services that provide for the daily needs of residents. There are also four small historic commercial nodes at Turgoose, Moodyville, Island View and West Keating.

Industrial District: The Keating Business District is located along Keating Cross Road and is recognized as an important driver of economic activity and employment. The light industrial area encourages small manufacturers who are flexible and able to respond to, and capitalize on, shifting trends within the industrial sector. 

Hub for farmers: The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) covers 60% of the land base, and farming is undertaken in both small and large operations.

International attraction: Over a million visitors a year come from all over the world to visit the exquisite floral landscapes of the Butchart Gardens. Its 55 acres of gardens sprang from a hobby project by Jennie Butchart after the quarry she and her husband Robert owned closed in the early 1900s. The attraction is augmented by the nearby Butterfly Gardens, Saanich Pioneer’s Museum and Heritage Acres.

Opportunities

“We’ve gone from 800 square feet to 3,500 to 11,000 to 20,000 square feet, all within Central Saanich,” notes Stacey. It’s been easy to meet with people who make decisions. And there are so many diverse businesses around us, from start-ups to big employers. And the anchors of nearby farmland, forests, First Nations and the ocean provide a sense of rootedness, history and significance.”

Central Saanich is reviewing public feedback for its latest Official Community Plan, within which it lays out a vision for the future. The District supports new development that is sensitive and sustainable while providing the amenities and services needed in the community. 

Encouraging density Central Saanich welcomes mixed-use density within the established commercial Village Centres of Brentwood Bay and Saanichton, and supports apartments or mixed-use buildings (commercial/ residential) higher than 5 storeys when they provide a community benefit. 

Diverse housing mix: The district favors applications that address identified housing gaps, including rental, senior and accessible housing, particularly below-market options. Their goal is to provide more affordable housing options for a range of lifestyles and income levels and to focus development on pocket neighbourhoods and land infill.

Climate Leadership: Central Saanich considers itself a climate leader, and as such, wants to align with businesses who help it achieve its carbon neutral goals, both in the built and natural environment. Businesses with ideas and innovations that support their vision are encouraged.

Food security: The district wants to ensure its farmland is preserved and farmers supported as their contribution to food security in Greater Victoria. It supports farmers through advocacy, local initiatives, and reducing barriers to farming. 

Farm-supporting business: Proposals to improve regional food security and recognize the role of farm-related businesses in supporting local food production, such as feed companies, abattoirs, cold storage facilities or produce processing plants, are welcomed.

Food hub: The district is looking into the potential of creating a food hub to serve a number of local farm operations as well as other food-based businesses by providing access to specialized facilities and equipment. This may include health-and-safety certified kitchens, processing space, commercial freezers, seed packing facilities or a number of other spaces to enable operations to expand operations and reach wider markets.

Marine Industry: In 2021, the Tsartlip Nation announced the development of their Marine Stewardship program, working alongside 33 other First Nations on the Salish Sea Initiative. This Initiative addresses and mitigates the impact of human activity, facilitating ocean wellness while improving marine life and habitat.

Open to entrepreneurs: Central Saanich prefers unique, small-scale commercial uses, and discourages the development of large single-occupant franchises. The district is exploring ways to better support home-based businesses.

Grow tourism: Central Saanich recognizes the valuable role visitors play in supporting a healthy community. The district encourages the development of tourist accommodation in core commercial areas, including small-scale boutique hotels and supportive businesses such as restaurants, bicycle rentals, and tourist attractions.

Film industry welcomed: The district is currently reviewing and updating Film Permit guidelines and permitting process to ensure they remain current is encouraging the film industry to establish a permanent location within the community.

The Right Fit for You?

Central Saanich offers an enticing mix of rural charm and bustling business, within a district that strongly encourages entrepreneurship. “It’s been easy to meet with people who make decisions, and I’ve never felt obstacles to helping us expand and evolve as a business,” says Level Ground Co.’s Stacey Toews.

Its economy is thriving, with a range of commercial service and retail businesses, and a diverse and productive agricultural sector. Businesses whose companies suit the growth needs of the community will find the support they need to build successful ventures.

Interested in learning more? Contact the team at South Island Prosperity Partnership.

History

The W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, who have lived in Central Saanich for thousands of years, are represented today by W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip), SȾÁUTW̱(Tsawout), and W̱SIḴEM (Tseycum), BOḰEĆEN (Pauquachin), and MÁLEXEȽ (Malahat) First Nations. 

W̱SÁNEĆ means “the emerging people.” Their homes once existed all along the coast of the Saanich Peninsula, throughout the San Juan and Gulf Islands, and as far as Point Roberts.

The first European settlers arrived in 1855 and were mostly farmers who appreciated the land’s fertile soil and grew hops, fruit, hay, grains and berries.

Robert Pim and Jennie Butchart opened a large limestone quarry and cement plant in 1904 (where Butchart Gardens is located today). After the cement plant closed in 1916 Mrs. Butchart started her ambitious beautification of the property with the Sunken Garden (originally the limestone quarry) and the gardens bloomed from there. Today, it is a National Historic Site of Canada. 

Central Saanich was incorporated on December 12, 1950.