Traffic through View Royal will continue to be a pressing issue for council and Mayor David Screech in 2017.

A Look Ahead to 2017: View Royal, Metchosin and Highlands

Traffic management, preserving green space and balancing parks and development on the agenda for View Royal, Metchosin, and Highlands.

  • Dec. 29, 2016 8:00 a.m.

VIEW ROYAL

Non-residents of View Royal might consider it a place you drive through to get somewhere else. But for the people who live in the community, having a good quality of life means depending on the Town to deal with issues which may threaten that quality. And one of those issues is traffic.

With the Trans-Canada Highway and Island highway dissecting the community, traffic flow and driver behaviour will continue to play heavily into residents’ everyday lives in 2017. While the TCH is provincial jurisdiction, planning for Island Highway is a municipal responsibility.

Mayor David Screech is well aware of the importance of the latter corridor. While the Town has paid for detailed designs of the stretch between Stormont and Helmcken roads, he said no reconfiguration will happen there until after the McKenzie interchange is completed.

“We’re certainly expecting that the Island Highway, and Burnside (Road) as well, for the next 18 months … are going to be high-use roads and we would plan any projects we are going to do accordingly,” he said.

While it’s unclear exactly how much the interchange project will impact traffic flows through View Royal, the probability of delays on those routes as work progresses seems inevitable.

Speaking of Island Highway, the potential effects of the proposed Christie Point redevelopment on Portage Inlet – it has one road in and out, Shoreline Drive – have been the topic of much discussion in the community. The most recent iteration of this development, which is expected to come before council sometime in early spring 2017, calls for 480 units in a combination of four- and six-storey buildings.

Screech said the development puts residential density in an appropriate place, but also admitted, “there’s no doubt that the configuration at Shoreline and Island Highway has to be changed in order to accommodate that traffic.” As such, he doesn’t see added traffic as a reason to deny such a project.

With the goal of finalizing its parks master plan in 2017, View Royal continues to fine tune the document, having gained a good sense of what residents want and expect. Encouraging higher parks utilization is high on the priority list.  Town staff took a step toward that recently by undertaking a renaming protocol for local green spaces, as a way to deepen residents’ connections to their surroundings and View Royal history.

Portage Park, with its waterfront access, and View Royal Park, a 20-acre expanse next to Craigflower Creek featuring off-leash dog walking and a community garden, are the “flagship” green spaces. Screech feels the latter is under-utilized and envisions an unofficial town centre for the site.

“I really think and hope that in the years to come we can enact some of that, where we could build a community gathering space and put some amenities there that would draw people to it, like music in the park,” he said.

The coming year will also likely see a change to the usage of the former youth detention centre. Currently used by Our Place for the Choices transitional shelter, the operating extension runs out at the end of March. Lobbying is being done to transform the facility into a rehabilitation centre, a concept Screech supports in principle.

“We’re hoping to see a definitive plan soon from BC Housing as to what their plans are for that property moving forward,” he said. “The residents in that area deserve to have a plan presented to them. They really do deserve to have a say in what’s going to be there in future.”

– Don Descoteau

METCHOSIN

For a community of just under 5,000, Metchosin’s first month of 2017 promises to be monumental.

On Jan. 28, residents will head to the polls to decide the fate of a proposed boundary swap that includes a partnership with Beecher Bay First Nation and the City of Langford. Arguments on both sides of the issue have been brought forward and will continue in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Mayor John Ranns deems the passing of this proposal to be essential for the continuation of Metchosin as a rural community, voicing concerns that Beecher Bay would eventually develop the parcels of treaty lands that lie within the District’s boundaries.

Asked if he’s concerned about what promises to be a watershed moment for the municipality, Ranns said, “There’s an old saying, ‘if you’re not running scared, you’re running second.’

“All you have to do is look at the election in the U.S. to know that you can never really know. From what I’m seeing and hearing, this is very well accepted by our residents and the ones that aren’t (in favour) are the ones that live in the neighbourhood, and that’s fully understandable.”

Ranns hopes those members of the community, living on and around Neild Road, can be “brought around” in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Outside of the boundary swap, increased outdoor recreational opportunities are likely to command some attention within Metchosin council chambers. The Witty’s Beach stairs opened in early October and will see their first summer of usage in 2017, and a successful boundary deal could lead to more discussions about a trail corridor that would connect the Galloping Goose Trail with Sooke Mountain Park along the would-be boundary buffer with Langford.

– Joel Tansey

HIGHLANDS

Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said council and staff will continue to work hard in 2017 crafting the District’s strategic plan.

Although limited in how much he could reveal given that much of the discussion has been behind closed doors, he said the focus is on “getting our priorities in place.” With that done, he added, it will help council move forward with budget talks in the new year.

One project due to get council attention in 2017 is the recent acquisition of a nature park at Mary Lake by the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society.

The group purchased the 73-acre park with the intention of eventually turning it over to the District as a municipal park. While council has yet to decide what the final park will look like and what amenities it will offer, Williams said it’s a key piece in the park network that includes Thetis Lake Park and Mt. Work.

In terms of development, a number of projects are in various stages, including a commercial expansion by Ecoasis’ Bear Mountain on the Highlands side of its property. Council recently passed a bylaw allowing for sewer connections in that area (via Langford), to which Williams remarked, “It’s going great guns up there.”

Council will also review the community hall plan in the new year, in hopes of accommodating a community garden. A task force has done initial leg work to get that project off the ground and met with interested community members and other groups.

– Katherine Engqvist

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