A buffer zone might have doubled between Metchosin’s proposed new boundary and a development in Langford, but some nearby residents still feel like they’re getting a raw deal.
The issue relates to a boundary swap announced by Metchosin, Langford and Beecher Bay First Nation in September that would allow Metchosin to keep three parcels of treaty land as parks, but also move the municipal boundary with Langford closer to Neild Road.
At council on Tuesday, several residents expressed their continued discontentment with the swap and urged council to get together with Beecher Bay and think of another solution. Ranns noted that discussions with Beecher Bay go back 20 years and that this is the best solution they could come up with.
“If there’s another way, I’d sure like to hear it, because I’ve explored every possible avenue on this,” he said.
In response to concerns raised by residents, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns negotiated an increase of the buffer from 100 to 200 metres along most of what would become the District’s northern boundary, toward a proposed Langford subdivision. The new deal would give Metchosin roughly 390 acres to be preserved as green space, including the treaty lands, while Langford would gain an extra 350 to Langford.
Shayn McAskin, who lives off Neild on Boulderpath Road, said a 200-metre buffer is still far too little when considering the noise pollution he expects will accompany the development.
“It doesn’t change everything we’ve shown to critique the thing … you’re still going to be able to see all the development on Centre Mountain (from) the heartland of Metchosin,” he said. “You’re still going to have an industrial park pushed in as far as it is. An extra 100-metre strip of parkland … it’s better than before … but it doesn’t make it a good deal.”
The previous half-acre minimum lot size for the residential development was also downsized to a quarter-acre in return for the larger buffer, after Ranns heard residents comments at an open house this month.
Ben Hircock Sr., whose property lies near the other end of Neild Road, sees no benefit to him of a larger buffer, but said it could allay the fears of residents near the Happy Valley Road end of Neild. He’s more concerned about the noise and traffic potentially generated by an industrial park proposed for just over the new Langford border.
Ranns has repeatedly said the deal is necessary to ensure Metchosin’s future as a rural community, claiming that the Beecher Bay First Nation has been clear that it plans to develop the parcels of treaty lands currently within District boundaries.
McAskin, part of a group opposed to the agreement, believes Ranns’s claims come down to “fear mongering” and says it’s unrealistic that a major development would happen in the southern parcels of land. “They’re telling us that all of these bad things are going to happen … that is one scenario and it is the most extreme scenario of what could happen,” he said.
Johnny Carline, the former Metro Vancouver commissioner and chief administrative officer who retired to Metchosin in 2012, agrees Ranns has painted a worst-case scenario. But Carline said the agreement removes uncertainty surrounding the treaty parcels for Metchosin. He doesn’t see as far-fetched the notion that Beecher Bay could develop section 95, the parcel closest to the Langford border, as medium- or high-density housing.
“I doubt (the courts would) be approving great high-rises in the middle of a rural area …” he said. “But it’s certainly a possibility that they would allow them a certain level of urban development and that would (change) the nature of Metchosin quite a bit.” Carline went as far as to call the agreement an “ingenious.”
“I give a lot of credit to the people who have negotiated this. They’ve looked at a lot of different angles and tried to solve some problems,” he said. “If you’re in a rural area, you can reasonably hope not to have urban development on your doorstep. But if you’re at the edge of a rural area, then the best you can really hope for is a decent-sized buffer … Two hundred metres, that’s not bad.”
Metchosinites will vote in a referendum on the proposal Jan. 28.
** In the print edition of this story it was erroneously reported that Johnny Carline said “I doubt (the District would) be approving great high-rises in the middle of a rural area…” in the second to last paragraph. His quote has been corrected above.