While the announcement of a proposed Langford business park in an area currently inside Metchsoin’s boundaries came as a surprise to many, it’s an idea that’s been on the City’s radar for some time.
“If we don’t do this, our community will not sustain itself,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young, adding this “once in a lifetime opportunity” came at the right time. He nodded to Langford 20 years ago, where there were very few sought-after jobs and many residents were leaving to live elsewhere in the region. “I don’t want to see that,” he added.
For the West Shore to continue to grow, he said, more jobs need to be created here to keep residents from having to work outside the area. In hopes of spurring that job creation, Langford council members have been looking for a site to host a business park, and for a way to create an industrial centre in the city.
“This is the place where the housing is going and the population is growing,” Young said.
He warned that if area politicians don’t plan ahead, they run the risk of new neighbourhoods going in and pushing out industry. It’s a balance that’s very easy to lose, and quickly. “We really have to do this now.”
The proposal still requires approval from higher levels of government to change the municipal boundaries and allow for the Beecher Bay First Nation to trade treaty lands.
But what makes this partnership so unique, at least in Young’s mind, is that it required out of the box thinking. Proposing a change to the border of Langford and Metchosin and bringing in Beecher Bay First Nation as the equivalent of an equal municipality has “really never been done before,” he said, and paves the way for similar partnerships in the future. “By bringing them into the mix you can actually do a better job.”
Most importantly, he noted, it gives all three partners that chance to create more economic generators, something Metchosin and the Beecher Bay First Nation have been struggling with while trying to maintain the rural area.
The area chosen for the proposed business park, just off Sooke Road near Humpback Road, has the potential for those economic generators, Young said. When you give someone the rights to land that doesn’t have those generators, he said, “you’re not helping them, your hindering them … We know the importance of that.”
Julie Lawlor, WestShore Chamber of Commerce executive director, said the partnership “creates another option on the West Shore in terms of new business development.” The proposal is definitely unique in the area, she said, adding that she’s excited to get a more in-depth look at the plans. “It’s quite an exciting time to be on the West Shore.”
She pointed to the Chamber’s recent Vision Gala, where local politicians, members of the business community and the general public discussed a partnership between West Shore municipalities to work together for the long-term good of the West Shore. “It’s great to see this example that really feeds back to that understanding,” Lawlor added.
While a smaller business park is already in the works on the other side of Sooke Road – it will eventually connect with West Shore Parkway – Young said this latest announcement will be an extension of that. The reason for not putting the entire business park development on the West Shore Parkway side of Sooke Road was to allow for the partnership with Metchosin and the Beecher Bay First Nation.
“You’re better off having a business park there than trying to spread it across all of the municipalities,” he said, adding “it’s a big thing and I think it’ll have the desired results.”
But seeing this vision come to fruition will be no cakewalk. “It’s very hard to do this,” Young said. “This is not going to be something done overnight.”
For it to succeed, he said, it needs to be looked at “as if there are no boundaries … Let’s get jobs for everybody.”