With hundreds of logs laying stacked on a rolling piece of Saanich property fronting onto Watkiss Way, the Town of View Royal is watching closely to see what happens next.
Of primary concern to the town and those who previously treated the private land as parkland, is the long-term effect on a wetland bordering the property of removing much of the tree canopy. The area in question runs behind the Stonebridge Drive neighbourhood in View Royal and roughly straddles the border with Saanich.
“We have written to Saanich and we’re hoping to (determine), collectively with Saanich and the property owner, that we can have an enhanced protection area for the wetlands,” View Royal Mayor David Screech said.
The provincial regulation for a buffer between the logged area and the wetlands is five metres, “which isn’t very much,” but appears to have been observed, he said. Nonetheless, Town staff will be evaluating the direct impacts on the wetland, Screech said, and View Royal would still like to have a conversation with landowner Allen Vandekerkhove and Saanich parks staff on the matter.
Vandekerkhove said he has hired a professional biologist, Thomas Roy, to oversee that part of the work to ensure appropriate care is taken for the health of the wetland, which the landowner says is dry in summer and fills up with water in the wetter months.
“He’s making me follow all the rules about the creeks and the swamps and all that,” he said.
While it’s been established that the former Payless Gas owner is within his rights to log the land – which lies in the Agricultural Land Reserve – and use it to grow hay, transporting the timber away from his property may come under the Town’s jurisdiction if Watkiss Way is used as an egress. Both ends are in View Royal, while the section bordering the logged property is in Saanich.
“We’re still expecting to talk to Mr. Vandekerkhove about our roads, when he goes to bring those logs out,” Screech said.
The Town’s truck route bylaw states that vehicles with a total gross vehicular weight more than 20,000 kilograms may not be driven on roadways other than on the designated truck route, unless they are making a delivery or performing work or service within the town’s borders, or driving towards a location for which there is no alternate route.
Vandekerkhove said the logging and clearing part of the repurposing of his land has been put on hold until the land dries out and can handle large vehicles. He has built a road to accommodate the large trucks and stump removal equipment.
As for his ability to use Watkiss Way to remove the logs, he said that as a farmer he considers the cut trees his first crop and local roads bylaws should respect his right to transport the crop.
He added other industrial operations run large vehicles on roads around the area and that he plans to “use the road like everyone else.”
While the ability for the public to use the section of property Vandekerkhove purchased a couple of years ago has been removed, the plan for the Eagle Creek Village development up Watkiss Way includes the creation of a three-acre park next door.