2015 IN REVIEW: West Shore news moments encapsulated

The Goldstream News Gazette offers snapshots of some of the top news stories from the past year

JANUARY

7 – Police have tracked down all but one of the suspects in a pair of home invasion robberies. The first was in Langford on the evening of Jan. 1 and saw seven masked individuals break into a home and steal money and jewelry. The other came in the early hours of Jan. 2 in Colwood and saw police, acting on a tip from an alert citizen, catch three of the four people involved as they fled the scene after threatening the residents.

14 – West Shore RCMP recommend 13 charges of fraud after an arrest is made in Langford with regards to a MasterCard scam that targeted a Superstore retailer in Duncan. The perpetrator used illegally obtained credit card data information to make 54 purchases. Police suspect the activity could be part of a larger fraud operation.

14 – The Westshore Rebels junior football club announces the hiring of J.C. Boice as their new head coach. Boice, an American citizen who lives much of his time with his family on the West Shore, has a solid reputation as a quarterbacks coach and instructor for academy programs south of the border.

23 – The Sooke School District’s West Shore Centre for Learning celebrates the opening of its new headquarters in Colwood for school-age alternative learners. Administrators Paul Block and Mark Kaercher take the opportunity to remind the public that different students learn in different ways.

28 – Belmont secondary undertakes a school-wide study to gauge students’ support for a change of the sports teams’ mascot from Bulldogs to something else, with the impending move to the new school. In a vote later in 2015, the students narrowly defeat the other options and choose to keep the Bulldogs nickname.

30 – Hunters packed into a room at the Four Points by Sheraton Victoria hotel in Langford angrily giving their views on the recent changes to B.C.’s hunting tag allocation policy to a B.C. Wildlife Federation representative. Al Martin is researching the issue for the BCWF, which calls the new regulations unfair given the number of tags being allotted to guides and the relatively small number made available to B.C. residents who don’t utilize guides.

FEBRUARY

6 – Brave young cancer patient Hannah Day of Langford, recovering from a fall that left her with a broken arm, is preparing to drop the puck at a Victoria Grizzlies game. The five-year-old is nearly a year post-transplant from receiving stem cells from her mother, Brooke Ervin, and two and a half years cancer free from the rare muscular cancer she was diagnosed with as a toddler.

13 – The Luxton Pro Rodeo aspect of the annual spring fair is cancelled, a decision organizers attribute to “increasing costs.” Rodeo managers Sandy West and Charlie Price say they would need to increase ticket prices to make the it financially viable, but “do not wish to put this burden on the public.” The Luxton rodeo, like many others, has come under fire in recent years from protesters who complain the events are cruel to animals.

13 – Integrated Road Safety Unit officers are criticized for what some call an unfair and aggressive policing approach, largely around pubs on the West Shore. Langford Mayor Stew Young says he hears dozens of complaints per year about IRSU from residents who say officers stop them for a minor issue as a way to check them for impaired driving, then ignore the original issue and angrily let them go after determining the driver hasn’t been drinking. Pub owners argue that pubs are being targeted, unlike restaurants, hotel lounges and other places serving alcohol, but IRSU commander James Anderson says the unit needs to go where the booze is to fulfill its mandate of getting drunk drivers off the road.

13 – Vancouver-based Onni Group finalizes its purchase of the former Capital City Centre property at Colwood Corners. That massive project broke ground in 2011, but work stopped in 2013 after League Financial Group filed for creditor protection. The City of Colwood looks forward to a revamped plan for the land helping rejuvenate the area.

27 – School District 62 trustees vote themselves a 45-per-cent pay raise, bringing their remuneration in line with other districts in the province, says board vice-chair Bob Phillips. The raise calls for trustee salaries to jump from $10,000 a year to $14,500 as of September.

MARCH

4 – Langford veterans Fred Seeley and Bob Campbell are among those living vets given the French Legion of Honour medal for their efforts on D-Day to help free the French people from the tyranny of the Nazis in the Second World War.

6 – Fire heavily damages the rear of a house near the foot of Bear Mountain Parkway, the retirement home for a couple living there with their adult son and his girlfriend. Damage was estimated at $500,000 and fire investigators said the house may have to be torn down.

8 – A 23-year-old woman attacked as she jogged on a trail in Glen Lake Park in Langford was sexually assaulted, say police, who are calling the attack “random” and “isolated.” Despite an extensive search, police were unable to locate the suspect.

13 – A rash of break-and-enters in Metchosin that have bumped up the district’s crime rate are likely attributable to one or two individuals, says longtime resident Frank Mitchell, who doesn’t feel the area is becoming a less safe place to live.

18 – Online survey results on the Westside Solutions website show that high environmental standards, low cost and minimal odour are the biggest priorities for residents when it comes to sewage treatment options.

18 – The Camosun Chargers men, with four former Belmont Bulldogs on the roster, including first team all-star Alex Sadowski and rookie middle Douglass Waterman, capture the Canadian Colleges Athletics Association volleyball championship in P.E.I. The women’s team, with Belmont alumnus, third-year libero Jamie Rodman, takes the bronze.

APRIL

1 – Residents want nearby Tower Point Park expanded as part of the discussion over the subdivision of an adjacent private lot in Metchosin. The planned creation of eight lots is allowable under current zoning regulations. Mayor John Ranns said council has long been aware that the property could be divided but has always hoped it wouldn’t be. The subdivision, which has single-family homes planned for each of the lots, moves ahead in July, with the District of Metchosin receiving $200,000 in lieu of land as part of the development deal.

15 – More than 90 residents sign a petition against a 20-unit townhouse complex proposed for the Valleyview neighbourhood off Happy Valley Road. The petition, presented to council during a public hearing on the application, argued that the original intention for developing the area was to build single-family homes, not the higher density cluster townhomes included in the new proposal. That plan for the land replaced one that would have contained seven single-family homes.

17 – Colwood council gives third reading to changes to the official community plan, and a rezoning application for the Ocean Grove townhome and condominium project, that proposes adding another 795 units to the 88 built under the former Aquattro brand near Esquimalt Lagoon off Heatherbell Road. The council decision came after staff summarized resident concerns about the project and suggested ways to address those issues.

17 – Golfer Naomi Ko of Metchosin wins the Sport B.C. female junior athlete of the year award. Her 2014 accomplishments included winning the B.C. junior championships, coming second in the juvenile B.C.s, posting a win and a third place finish on the CN Future Links series and placing 13th in the American Junior Golf Association girls national championship.

22 – Canada places lower than expected at sixth, but the first Canada Women’s Sevens international rugby tournament at Westhills Stadium is otherwise considered very much a success. The grandstands were largely full for the weekend, and a festival atmosphere prevailed, especially for Team Canada’s matches. Organizers later say Langford will be highly considered to host the event again in 2016, a decision which is officially announced a short time later.

29 – Longtime emergency support services volunteer Cindy Heslop of View Royal is honoured by the province with a Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer lifetime achievement award for her efforts promoting emergency preparedness in the area.

MAY

1 – There isn’t an empty chair in Langford council chambers at a Parks, Recreation, Culture and Beautification Committee meeting, as the room fills with residents eager to hear about the health of Langford’s Lake system. While the meeting is meant to bring residents together to hear about ways to improve local lakes – specially, Glen Lake, Langford Lake and Florence Lake – an overarching message is clear: while the lakes are getting healthier, there are still improvements to be made and much to be done.

6 – The City of Langford is trying a different approach in dealing with the new Devil’s Army motorcycle gang clubhouse at 2775 Spencer Rd. The clubhouse officially opened over the weekend with about 100 bikers making the trip from as far away as Campbell River. Langford Mayor Stew Young says the clubhouse presents more of a land-use issue than a criminal one. The City went on to file a B.C. Supreme Court injunction, which states that the property is zoned for office use, not for private club, fraternal lodge, club or clubhouse purposes and calls on property owners and tenants to cease operations.

6 – B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone officially announces funding for the Leigh Road Interchange completion. The money will help build a new southbound off ramp onto Leigh from the Trans-Canada Highway and an acceleration lane from West Shore Parkway onto the TCH, as well as go towards closure of Goldstream Avenue as a highway exit.

13 – A new development proposal for Painter and Metchosin roads is raising eyebrows in Colwood as it moves forward. A rezoning application that proposes nine single-family homes and two apartment complexes on the two properties at 3320 Metchosin Rd. and 3319 Painter Rd. is causing some concerns in relation to increased traffic and density. One resident submits a petition with 234 signatures of those opposed to the project.

13 – Former Victoria Grizzlies goaltender Nic Renyard is named the top junior A goalie in Canada, after a stellar 2014-15 season with the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He led the league in wins with 30, and save percentage with a .924 mark and secured a scholarship to the University of Massachusetts.

JUNE

3 – Dunsmuir middle school will receive $10.2-million in seismic upgrades as part of a funding partnership between the province and Sooke School District. The work is expected to begin in the summer and wind up in late 2016 and will not see the school closed.

10 – View Royal resident and nine-time national air pistol champion Mark Hines prepares to head to the Pan-Am Games this summer in Ontario as a member of Team Canada. He hopes to use the competition to secure an Olympic team berth. But the modest sharp shooter doesn’t want to set expectations too high and will be happy if he just qualifies for the finals.

17 – The City of Langford is looking for new ways to approach farmland protection and development by proposing a way to ease the removal of properties from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Coun. Lillian Szpak wrote the Agricultural Land Commission’s Island Panel to indicate a desire to meet and discuss the creation and implementation of an action plan. The letter outlines an initiative that would see “non-Production ALR lands” removed from the ALR after “a significant contribution is made by the owner/developer towards the ongoing support of intensive agriculture on capable lands.”

19 – The Sooke Teachers Association is at odds with SD62 over an issue of back pay. Joining a grievance filed by the B.C. Teacher’s Association with the B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association over the way teachers were paid in September 2014, part of which teachers were on strike, the STA says its members are owed more than $300,000 in back pay.

19 – The B.C. Hockey League’s Victoria Grizzlies can breathe a sigh of relief now that a five-year lease deal has been signed with West Shore Parks and Recreation Society, which owns and operates The Q Centre. The lack of a deal threatened the existence of the junior A team, one of the building’s anchor tenants.

26 – View Royal residents, disappointed with council’s decision to proceed with allowing truck traffic on Hallowell Road, say the decision was made before the meeting, which left many standing in the foyer trying to hear the proceedings. The special meeting was called to discuss the possibility of lifting weight restrictions on the road between Admirals Road and Esquimalt First Nation property, opening it to truck traffic and finishing the section of the E&N Rail Trail. Many residents spoke against the proposal while none defended it.

JULY

1 – What began as a desire to repay an act of kindness morphs into something much bigger for West Shore RCMP. After a homeless man in Langford handed in roughly $2,400 that he found, a crowd funding site sprung up to repay the man’s generosity and gains him national attention. West Shore RCMP are tasked with finding the man to give him the good news. However, once they finally tracked down the good samaritan, he asks that the roughly $5,000 raised be donated to Our Place instead of him.

3 – The Spencer Road exit onto the Trans-Canada Highway is closed, an access some area residents call the safest onto the TCH in the growing West Shore. The closure was included as part of the Leigh Road Interchange completion project and was dictated by the province, according to the City of Langford.

10 – The cause of a fire at the Thetis Lake Campground and Trailer Park is still under investigation, as the site and wreckage remain taped off. Nearly two dozen firefighters from the View Royal and Colwood fire departments attend the blaze, which forces the evacuation of 10 nearby mobile homes. The presence of propane tanks and the proximity of neighbouring structures made the fire especially difficult for crews. West Shore RCMP deem the fire to be “suspicious.”

15 – The military housing at Belmont Park in Colwood will be improved as part of a federal announcement of funding to improve drydock facilities at CFB Esquimalt. Approximately $2.8 million of the $17.8-million infrastructure investment will go toward building new residential housing and renovating existing housing.

17 – Progress on the $13.1-million M’akola Development Services project in Langford is celebrated with a traditional First Nations blessing and drum ceremony. The affordable rental housing project will include 30 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom rent-subsidized units for aboriginal families and individuals in need.

29 – The announcement of funding for the completion of West Shore Parkway has local residents cheering. The extension will see the roadway connected from the Trans-Canada Highway to Sooke Road. The $22.5-million project, a partnership between the federal and provincial governments and the City of Langford, is making strides toward completion in 2018.

AUGUST

7 – Claude Road residents have mixed opinions on a controversial parking lot, which does not require rezoning and thus did not offer residents a chance to voice their concerns at a public hearing. Room for the parking lot was made by demolishing a house on a city owned lot at 2765 Claude Rd. The project was created in conjunction to upgrades on Danbrook Park to make it a more inviting space for residents to walk their dogs or otherwise enjoy. Langford Mayor Stew Young said the projects were an extension of the beautification already done on Goldstream Avenue, and he hoped residents in the core would take advantage of the park as a place to walk their dogs.

12 – The Coast Collective gallery and arts centre is embraced by the developers of Pacific Landing on the former Havenwood property in Colwood. The arts group has been located in the historic Pendray House on the lot since 2008, but must vacate while construction on the residential project is ongoing. The Coast Collective board ultimately votes unanimously in September to move permanently into a space at the new Holiday Inn Express hotel on Wale Road.

14 – A 20-year-old Victoria-area man needs time to recuperate after falling nearly 20 feet while climbing Mount Finlayson. Langford Fire Rescue was called in by another hiker who came across the fallen man, who had suffered a broken leg. The operation to rescue the man involves 14 firefighters, two paramedics, an ATV, and the use of a camera-equipped, remotely controlled aircraft. The use of the drone in this rescue helps pave the way for approval of a drone purchase for the Langford department later in the fall.

19 – One man dies and another is injured as a result of the collapse of a boom lift on a construction site in Metchosin. Ground worker Robert Davison, 42 of Langford, was fatally injured in the incident, while the lift operator suffered undetermined injuries.

21 – Prohibition continues for the Goldstream Station Market in Langford, after an appeal to council fails. Organizers had asked the City to reconsider allowing market patrons to sample beer, wine, cider and spirits – a scenario allowed under provincial regulations but in conflict with local bylaws due to the market’s location in Veteran’s Memorial Park. Council votes 2-1 against looking into changing the bylaw.

SEPTEMBER

2 – Emergency crews work around the clock attending to multiple serious motor vehicle crashes on the Trans-Canada Highway, one of which saw a motorcyclist killed, that caused the Malahat to be closed for a combined total of approximately 13 hours. The accidents sent 10 to the hospital over the weekend and in one stretch the highway is closed in both directions and re-opened at approximate 1 a.m. on the Monday. According to RCMP, preliminary evidence recovered at the scene suggest speed was a factor in most of the crashes.

11 – Langford council listened to comments supporting and rejecting the City’s proposed request to remove 43 parcels of land – totalling more than 100 acres and mostly in south Langford – from the Agricultural Land Reserve. Some of the approximately 40 people who attend the public meeting speak against the idea of allowing landowners to pay cash for the removal of their property from the ALR. Others voice approval based on the fact much of the land is not suitable for agriculture.

11 – The Bulldogs have marked their new territory and the Ravens have entered the nest for the first time. The new Belmont and Royal Bay schools are filled with fresh-faced students this week, eager to see inside the their walls for the first time as the newest two schools on Vancouver Island open.

16 – The Victoria Shamrocks capture their ninth Mann Cup national senior lacrosse championship with a 12-6 victory over the Peterborough Lakers in game 6 at The Q Centre in Colwood. The title is the team’s first since 2005 and culminated a season in which the boys in green and white dominated the Western Lacrosse Association after starting the season 0-2. It was the club’s third straight trip to the winner-take-all series and helped proclaim a success management’s strategy to add key players such as attacker Dan Dawson, goaltender Matt Roik and defender Rory Smith to the already potent mix as a way to help secure the crown.

21 – The annual Kraft Hockeyville game comes to The Q Centre in Colwood, by way of contest winner North Saanich. A sea of fans in blue-and-green Vancouver jerseys see Colwood native Adam Cracknell score the winning goal for the Canucks over the San Jose Sharks during the National Hockey League’s newly-minted three-on-three overtime format, thus sending most in the sellout crowd home happy.

OCTOBER

2 – While finishing touches are still being completed on the new Royal Bay secondary, plans are already in the works for expansion. In operation for only a month, the school is already over its 800-student capacity.

7 – The Tour de Rock rolls through West Shore communities and stops at L’Ecole Millstream elementary. Rider Dillon Sahota sees his wife, school principal Julia, for the first time since starting the two-week fundraising bike tour. The tour raises more than $1.1-million for the Canadian Cancer Society.

7 – An Anything But Conservative rally in Metchosin features a wide demographic, from members of the Raging Grannies to clowns sporting signage demanding support for children. Approximately 150 assemble to demonstrate against a Conservative fundraiser in the area, having heard rumours that the prime minister would attend. The group, which includes “Harperman” song author Tony Turner, is disappointed to not see Stephen Harper.

7 – West Shore RCMP arrests Derek Fast, who had a warrant issued for his arrest after he allegedly fled from police and attempted to run down a police officer. The alleged incident culminates with a four-hour manhunt.

16 – A fallen cedar will stand again following the resurrection of a 25-foot tall totem pole welcoming students, faculty and the community to Royal Roads University. The totem, entitled Harmony, was carved by Tom LaFortune and gifted to RRU by its chancellor Wayne Strandlund to celebrate the university’s 75th year.

21 – A Liberal majority still yields federal seats for the two NDP candidates in the West Shore. Incumbent MP Randall Garrison hangs onto his seat in the realigned Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke by a healthy margin, while Alistair MacGregor captures the new riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

NOVEMBER

2 – Thousands are left without power across the West Shore and left cleaning up in the aftermath of a powerful storm that pounds the region with unwavering winds and rain, causing numerous road closures and power outages. Sooke Road is closed in both directions for most of the day and emergency crews had no or limited access to certain areas in the West Shore for hours.

4 – Two significant and iconic West Shore structures are subject to demolition in recent days, with excavators working away to take down the old Belmont secondary to make way for what will be a new Thrifty Foods store and development. Similar treatment is happening at the former View Royal fire hall, where the property is being sold to a private developer. Both buildings were 1950s-era structures that were added onto and patched together as the usage grew over the years.

11 – A man wielding a knife in View Royal is taken into custody and transported to hospital for medical assessment, after police subdued him with a Taser. The 19-year-old Esquimalt man was found in the middle of Pheasant Lane, where he reportedly took out a knife and started walking away from officers, ignoring commands to drop it. According to the police report, at one point during the incident the man turned and came towards officers.

18 – Langford resident Stephanie Needham is a bookkeeper by day, and a power lifter by night. The 58-year-old can lift double her own weight and is in preparation for the Commonwealth Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships, where she will be among 525 lifters from 15 Commonwealth countries competing at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

DECEMBER

2 – The Belmont Blue junior girls volleyball team’s 2015 campaign wraps up with a provincial school championship in Delta. The unbeaten team, coached by Ken Lowe, won the final with their 95th and 96th consecutive set wins, having not lost to junior-level opponents this year. Lowe calls the campaign a “magical” season.

9 – Ruth Saunders, the service manager for Saunders Subaru, becomes the first woman to sit on both the Regional and National Dealer Advisory board for Subaru Canada. A veteran of 36 years in the family business, her advisory roles for Subaru see her travel to Japan for meetings, among other duties.

11 – Long-time Sooke School District board chair Wendy Hobbs chooses not to accept a nomination to run for chair again from fellow trustee Denise Riley, after being informed she no longer has support from the full board. Instead, Bob Phillips, nominated by trustee Ravi Parmar, replaces Hobbs, who spent six years in the position.

Dec. 18 – Crown council seeks a 10-year sentence for Bradley Michael Muscat, who pled guilty in August to two charges. The first conviction was for aggravated sexual assault of a Langford woman who was subdued with a sharp object, eventually thrown down and taken to a clearing where she was raped, and robbed of her cellphone. The second was for aggravated assault of a sex-trade worker in Surrey who was hit in the head, stabbed in her side and back and robbed of $500 before stabbing Muscat herself. He was arrested after being identified in the hospital where he was treated for the wound.

18 – Young Langford artist Aiden Rose got up from being sick in bed to take a phone call from a Boston Pizza representative who tells him he has won the 13-under category of the Boston Pizza/Bauer Design-a-Mask contest for Canada’s national junior hockey team goaltenders. He is later flown to Toronto to attend an exhibition game featuring Team Canada, visit the Hockey Hall of Fame and attend a special ceremony where three mask designs are unveiled and presented to the three Team Canada goalies.

– Compiled by Katherine Engqvist, Arnold Lim and Don Descoteau

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