The evening had a different look to it than what was originally planned, but staff were still pleased with the City of Colwood’s first public input session as it prepares to update its Official Community Plan.
The Oct. 27 session was to include a presentation from Dave Witty, Provost and vice-president of Vancouver Island University, but he got stuck in a Malahat road closure and was unable to make it. His talk will be rescheduled.
Instead, attendees formed into small groups and discussed topics pertaining to the future of Colwood, including transportation, natural features, waterfront and town centres.
All topics elicited lively discussion points, with continuing traffic buildup and concern over green spaces at the forefront of many residents’ minds.
Options for travel into Victoria were seen as an important part of the future community plan, and bus lanes, rail and even ferry possibilities were discussed favourably.
Support for multiple methods of transportation were also a part of the discussion at Mayor Carol Hamilton’s table, but she cautioned that the idea of light rail transit might be unrealistic for a region of this size.
“How much are you willing to spend on [LRT], because for it to be even remotely successful, you’re looking at needing a million people in population,” she said. “[The region] is only a third of the way there.”
Another transportation topic, which led to a lengthy discussion at one table, concerned Ocean Boulevard and its growing use as a shortcut for commuters hoping to avoid some of the traffic slowdowns along Metchosin and Sooke roads.
This problem is like to get worse as Royal Bay is built out, and the viability of the route in the future was discussed amid erosion concerns. The table was unanimous in its belief that the beachfront along the lagoon was more important than the preservation of the roadway.
Moving south towards the waterfront below Royal Bay, it was agreed by most at the table that some development along the waterfront, such as cafes, restaurants – even a hotel – would be beneficial and take advantage of Colwood’s spectacular views of downtown Victoria and the Olympic Mountains.
Colwood council and staff see this as a pivotal point in the City’s development, with major projects such as Royal Bay set to change the face of the municipality going forward.
“This community planning process is our opportunity to set the course for a shining future – preserving the things we cherish and creating community places where people love to spend time,” Hamilton told the Gazette earlier in October. She reiterated those thoughts last week and also commented on the City’s identity.
While the mayor hopes Colwood can attract businesses to set up shop on the West Shore, she believes that effort will take time.
“If a bedroom community is going to be what’s in our future, then we need to ensure that we are the best bedroom community that we can offer,” she said. “Our area is family-driven, so are we ensuring that we’ve got the best options for families?”
Hamilton said she’d like to see a larger turnout for upcoming planning nights around the OCP.
“I really believe that if you live here and you are paying taxes here, then you need to take an interest in what’s going on in the community.”
The input process will continue tomorrow night (Nov. 3) at 6:30 p.m. at Royal Bay secondary, with a presentation from UBC professor Will Marsh titled Wild in the City.
Residents can also make their voices heard on the OCP process by participating in an online survey, accessible at colwood.ca/makingwaves.