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Metchosin residents see neighbourhood threatened under deal

A boundary swap proposal with Langford and Beecher Bay is a loser for some Metchosinites, according to some residents.
Ben Hircock Jr. (left) and Shayne McAskin look out towards Langford from a house in their Metchosin neighbourhood. The City’s border with the rural district will become a lot closer to them should a proposed boundary adjustment pass.

Ben Hircock Sr. and Shayne McAskin both believed they had left the rapid development of Langford behind for a quieter, rural lifesyle in Metchosin when they moved to their respective properties in the Neild Road area.

But a proposed boundary swap that also includes Beecher Bay (Sc’ianew) First Nation could bring them right back to where they started, moving the boundary with Langford that much closer and threatening the rural existence they believed they had bought into.

The proposal will be put to a referendum in the new year as Metchosinites are given the final say in what’s being hailed as the biggest deal in the District’s recent history.

McAskin grew up in a Happy Valley Road neighbourhood in Langford that once looked like Metchosin does today. He recalls a time when he would buy fresh eggs from a neighbourhood farm on Luxton Road and go on forest walks all around his home.

That was prior to the development that pushed him away.

“It became something that it wasn’t. It became something else,” McAskin said.

Hircock also lived along Happy Valley Road – on two thirds of an acre – but increasing development led him to move south to Metchosin nine years ago in order to maintain the rural lifestyle he had grown accustomed to.

“It just eventually got to the point where traffic was increasing – lots of industrial traffic as well as residential traffic,” he said.

Now, Hircock’s home is surrounded by nature, he has frequent encounters with wildlife and his neighbours are completely out of sight.

“If you like that kind of stuff, it’s a cool spot to live.”

McAskin, who rents on Boulder Pass Road, a small branch of neighbourhood off of Neild Road, says he can hear the distant rumble of cars on Happy Valley Road, but beyond that, it’s blissful silence.

It’s a silence that could become a rarity if the proposal goes through and the boundary shifts.

Plans call for an industrial park – a partnership between Beecher Bay and Langford – and residents are worried that will add construction noise during the build out, and increased traffic following the completion of the development.

“It will move construction and rock blasting and that sort of thing (to) well within earshot for quite a number of residents,” Hircock said.

More than 100 acres of green space will remain as a buffer between Langford’s proposed development and the closest Metchosin residents. Hircock and McAskin were both quick to point out that the green space will be heavily trafficked by nearby Langford residents and won’t really feel like it belongs to Metchosin.

Both understand the need to make a deal to ensure the prosperity of Beecher Bay, but they say residents in this area of Metchosin are unfairly taking the brunt of the negatives in the agreement.

“The Sc’ianew should have lands for economic development given to them in their treaty. (I’m) fully supportive of that. But it should make sense,” McAskin said.

Mayor John Ranns began negotiations earlier this year with Langford Mayor Stew Young and Beecher Bay Chief Russ Chipps. The proposed agreement was announced in September.

Ranns understands the concerns from residents most closely affected by the shift, but believes the deal is the municipality’s only chance to maintain its rural livelihood going forward.

“We knew all along that the people that were going to be in the closest proximity would have definite concerns and I get it … nobody likes giving away part of their community. But it’s the least of the evils,” he said.

The other alternative, as far as Ranns is concerned, is to be at risk of even closer development to Metchosin’s boundary on what’s known as Section 95. This parcel of land, which would be given to Beecher Bay under a treaty agreement, will remain with the District under terms of the proposal.

“The Band is very clear with what they’re going to do with the land if we don’t get it … you’ve got a choice of industrial land buffered by green space before those Neild Road residents, or quarrying and high-density development right next to them,” Ranns said.

He believes the move will also ensure Metchosin remains as rural as it can be, keeping taxes low while avoiding being lumped into any talk of amalgamation down the road.

“We couldn’t operate as a rural municipality if we have those high density developments within our border. Metchosin would not be Metchosin. We would have to service them, we would have vastly increased traffic that we would have to accommodate. Everything that happens in an urban environment,” he said.

“It comes down to, does Metchosin continue as a rural community or do we not and probably get swallowed up into the urban hole through amalgamation?”

Opposing voices at an open house last month led Metchosin council to skip right to a referendum rather than pursue a public survey. Ranns said he’s always preferred the idea of a vote. “This is a critical decision for Metchosin … it’s something that should be decided by all residents.”

McAskin said the boundary announcement came as a surprise to he and his neighbours.

“It’s this ultimatum that we’re getting forced on us and it’s such a fundamental change to what Metchosin is,” he said, lamenting that there wasn’t any consultation prior to the deal’s announcement.

He added that residents in his neighbourhood are “getting dragged behind the bus” at the moment and are feeling “overwhelmed” with it, but plan to organize opposition to the proposal shortly. “We’ve been talking to a lot of people and talking amongst ourselves. There’s a lot of us that are getting organized.”

Despite the importance of the vote, Ranns said he isn’t concerned about the result, adding that most residents of the municipality will see the proposal as a good deal for the district’s future.

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