The City of Colwood is working towards adopting bylaws that would control the maximum height of retaining walls built by developers. This wall

Colwood wants input on retaining walls

Public asked to weigh in at Feb. 25 open house at Colwood City Hall

Approximately a year and a half ago, crews started blasting.

Errant rock even flew through the roof of a nearby home and the blasting, grinding and drilling continues to whittle down the mountain.

In its place, a retaining wall climbs up the new Elevation Point development on the corner of Bezanton Way and Latoria Road in Colwood.

“About three and a half years ago, the developers (Homewood Constructors Ltd.) came in and completely cleared all that. The area was (once) completely treed and it was a mountain,” said Brian Belcher, who lives on Bezanton Way. “The contractor was allowed to come in and clear cut it all.”

He says the dust and dirt, the noise and the loss of view have affected his quality of life. The Colwood resident of six years made his way from Saanich and said his new home once looked over “a peaceful area.” When he purchased, he wondered how nice it would be to live there.

“It’s spilled milk now, there is nothing that can be done on the existing site … This sure doesn’t fit into (Colwood’s) green plan. How it was ever allowed to happen, who knows?” he said.

“The backyards of those (living nearby) once looked at a forest. Now they look at this high rock wall. Imagine what that has done to property values?”

To help reduce such walls in the future, changes are coming to Colwood and will be discussed at a Feb. 25 open house hosted by the City. Proposed bylaw changes introduce specific language on retaining walls and a maximum height of 1.2 metres.

Also proposed are explicit rules for engineering standards in wall design and construction, the requiring of a permit and the prohibition of stacked-rock retaining walls such as the one in front of the construction site for Elevation Point, a 59-unit development being built at 517 to 535 Latoria Rd.

John Newton, president of Homewood Constructors Ltd., said he understands some of the concerns, but asked for patience for those passing judgment before the project is complete.

“You are looking at a painting that’s half finished,” he said. “We still have landscaping to do along the new sidewalk installed on Latoria, some big tall trees, foil that will catch run off and landscaping at the midlevel of walls that will allow vines to grow over and down the wall.”

They have hired two geotechnical engineers who have incorporated a newer design for the wall, which Newton said is a lot more labour-intensive and expensive than other retaining walls.

While there can never be a 100-per-cent guarantee on any structure in the event of a catastrophic event, he was confident in the wall’s design.

“It’s built there to stay,” he said. “These are professional geotechnical engineers that have put their name and insurance on it.”

The first phase of the development, which includes 27 of the 59 single-family dwellings, is expected to be complete in late April or early May. The start of the second phase will depend on sales, Newton added, and take approximately a year to complete once started.

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton noted there are several other such walls on the West Shore, but she hoped future developments might incorporate different strategies to improve the aesthetics. She welcomed the public to attend the open house to offer thoughts and feedback on the proposed bylaw changes.

“I would rather look at a rocky mountain face then an engineered wall, personally,” she said. “What it’s going to do is get a desire for more creative approaches to that kind of landscape.”

Dust control measures, including the application of water or another dust suppressant to prevent dust emission, and the limiting of rock crushing to help mitigate noise complaints to between 8 a.m and 4:30 p.m., are also proposed bylaw changes on the agenda.

The open house happens Thursday, Feb. 25 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Colwood City Hall at 3300 Wishart Rd.

alim@goldstreamgazette.com

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