Katherine Engqvist and Travis Paterson/ News Gazette staff
West Shore residents are voicing concern over clearcut logging being done on a Watkiss Way property bordering View Royal.
“It has far more effect on View Royal residents,” said Mayor David Screech, noting that town residents are seeing an impact on their skyline and neighbourhoods. “Unfortunately, it’s not within our jurisdiction.”
In October, Saanich issued a permit to remove upwards of 4,900 trees on a 12-hectare parcel of private land along Watkiss Way, directly north of Victoria General Hospital, with a portion bordering a wetland in View Royal.
“It would have been a courtesy to at least discuss it with us before it started,” Screech said, adding that transporting the logs off the property violates a View Royal bylaw relating to heavy truck traffic, but now their hands are tied.
Nonetheless, he said, View Royal is monitoring the project. “At the beginning, we wanted to make sure it was being done properly.”
With regard to the wetlands, Screech’s understanding is that all of the proper setbacks will be observed. That said, he doesn’t see much point in trying to pause the project.
“At this point, you wonder if the damage is already done,” he said. “The owner has no intention of stopping. To me, it’s a done deal.”
Property owner Allen Vandekerkhove, who also owns adjacent properties, said earlier this year he was open to selling or leasing the land to the Capital Regional District as a potential site for a wastewater treatment plant, but Saanich council twice voted down the proposal. He spent an estimated $100,000 on the project. After it was rejected he resolved to turn the land, included in B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve, into a hay farm.
Before Vandekerkhove bought the land, View Royal approached the District of Saanich with a partnership deal that would have seen the treed area near the wetlands turned into a park, Screech said. At that time, the Town supported the rezoning it would take to make that happen. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go far,” he said.
In 2013, advocate David Poje of Saanich suggested the District purchase the land as parkland, but that was turned down. Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff said at the time, “The land is in Saanich, but it would definitely be a park for View Royal. And more parkland creates more park to maintain, even if it is a natural park.”
In 2013 Saanich was also coming off recent purchases of Panama Flats ($2.4 million in cash and property) and Haro Woods ($1.48 million and 3.5 hectares of land).