What’s looming on the West Shore horizon?

Five mayors weigh in on upcoming projects, key issues for the coming year

Katherine EngqvistArnold LimDon DescoteauNews Gazette staff

Next year is shaping up to be an exciting one for the City of Langford in terms of recreation.

Next year is shaping up to be an exciting one for the City of Langford in terms of recreation.

Mayor Stew Young points to the opening of the new YM-YWCA facilities in April as one of the largest projects for the municipality for 2016. While the facility has created much anticipation and excitement, not just among Langford residents but those across the West Shore, the City isn’t stopping there, Young said.

With the completion of that project, council will be looking to Langford residents for input on a new five-year recreation plan. Young expects that public process will begin with an open house some time in the new year, similar to one held in 2014, when residents were asked what types of projects they would like to see, from baseball fields to swimming pools and arenas.

“That seemed to work really well,” he said, adding the projects outlined in the last five-year recreation plan have almost all been built.

With more recreation facilities being completed, the focus will shift to building out other infrastructure to keep residents content and close to home, Young said. A major element of this will be making sure there are jobs in Langford, and not simply retail jobs. The City is looking to attract companies that can offer good, high-paying jobs and continues to look into establishing a business park or zoning property for other industrial uses.

“Langford has to do it now before all the land disappears. It’s very important for the region too,” he said. With more jobs in Langford, residents wouldn’t need to commute, thus helping reduce traffic on already clogged arteries.

In the meantime, the mayor is keeping a close eye on the McKenzie Interchange project.

“During construction it’ll be hell,” he said. While the City supports the project, Young is skeptical of it being the end-all solution to traffic flow problems. “It’s not going to get any better … I think it’s time we looked at what we can do.”

Langford is already working on further ways to improve traffic flow, with several major projects completed, such as the Leigh Road Interchange. The City is continuing work on the West Shore Parkway extension in 2016, with completion projected for 2018.

Speaking of roadwork projects, Young said a “major priority” is finishing the Skirt Mountain entrance to the Bear Mountain area, connecting it at Leigh Road. The City is looking to partner with the landowners and operators to have that roadway in the works for 2016. “It’ll elevate the Millstream issues … That’ll be a big push for us,” he said.

On the topic of other things flowing through the City, the goal will be to achieve what’s best for the community in terms of sewage treatment. “The whole thing is a bit of a mess and there’s no real way to solve it,” Young said. “We better find the cheapest and best option.”

He also wants to see the roles of municipalities and the Capital Regional District redefined to help reduce duplication of services and keep costs from piling up for taxpayers. He argues that the CRD keeps adding expensive projects, but hasn’t cut any programs to help offset costs, especially in anticipation of rising sewage bills.


Steady growth on docket for City of Colwood

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

With 2016 upon us, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said residents of the West Shore community have much to look forward to with years of planning finally giving way to build-out in key areas of the community.

“Actually seeing the homes built in Royal Bay and actually seeing some activity at Onni (the former Capital City Centre at Colwood Corners) are probably the two things that get me excited that we are moving ahead again,” she said. “The trains are on the tracks and we are back in business in that regard. A large part of the regulation work stuff has been accomplished and we will actually see things happen and start to see those changes.”

Sewage treatment, its costs and plant locations, will continue to be a frequent topic of discussion in the coming year, as will other challenges, such as traffic flow for commuters with construction on the McKenzie Avenue Interchange project set to get underway next fall.

“That will also impact and make worse a traffic situation that is already congested,” Hamilton said. “I was out the door at 6:30 in the morning to get into bumper-to-bumper (traffic) to get to a 7:30 a.m. meeting. You can imagine (what it will be like) when construction starts.”

She also looked to internal improvements including increased communication with the residents of Colwood and more new public events, like the successful Eats and Beats. Perhaps the biggest new push in 2016 will be a renewed focus on the Official Community Plan.

“We did an OCP review in 2009 and 2010 and it’s time for a new one,” she said. “It’s slated to be on the books for 2016, so that will give a fresh insight as to what’s worked what hasn’t worked.”

Despite public perception of rapid growth she said looking over statistics from the previous 30 years, she has seen an average growth of approximately one per cent per year. Hamilton said she expects more of the same going forward while projects like Royal Bay build out.

“The time (will) come when you’ll be standing on the shores of Victoria with your binoculars looking out and instead of seeing a big grey or brown field of aggregate stuff out there, you will see glittering lights, attractions and green space.”


Shoulder municipality impacted on all sides

View Royal is the only Capital Region municipality that shares a border with five separate jurisdictions.

As such, it generally finds itself involved in a variety of projects and undertakings that have relevance to the entire region.

In 2016 some of those projects and issues will be high on the priority list for the Town, said Mayor David Screech.

“Sewage treatment is number 1; it’s certainly number 1 for me,” he said. “I would just like to get it resolved and move on.”

With the initially projected costs to taxpayers “significantly more for View Royal than the projected costs for McLoughlin Point” – even for the simplest option brought forward – Screech notes that it’ll be important in 2016 to ensure residents are given hard numbers and good information on all the options.

The public feedback component delayed by the CRD board before Christmas is expected to start around Jan. 10 and include online open houses, among other communication methods.

With the McKenzie Interchange project due to start next fall, and existing commuter traffic patterns directly affecting View Royal, the Town will seek to have its message clearly heard about the current and potential problems of cut-through traffic along Island Highway, Screech said.

“I’m certainly a supporter of the project – it’s needed to be done for eons,” he said. “My biggest fear is the gridlock that could well ensue during the construction. I think the province is very aware of that and will be doing everything they can to avoid it, maybe working at night. Whatever pain we have to go through is going to be worth it … when it’s complete, I think a lot of the running through neighbourhoods will stop.”

Looking at development, many small to medium scale townhome and single family dwelling projects are on the go. But the largest ongoing effort is Eagle Creek Village at Helmcken Road and Watkiss Way, which is scheduled for majority completion in 2016. Not only will the commercial/residential/office project, which is scheduled to mostly open in 2016, attract shoppers and new residents to View Royal, it’ll provide a significant tax boost to the Town’s coffers.

In terms of infrastructure, the Town has enlisted the help of students from Vancouver Island University to put together a comprehensive and updated parks plan, for which a public consultation aspect will likely happen in the spring.

The design process for View Royal’s major arteries, specifically the northwest section of Island Highway, will also continue next year.

“We’re looking at continuing the same standard that we started last time at the Four Mile trestle,” Screech said, referring to upgrades on bike lanes, sidewalks and lane widths. “We’re hoping to possibly cash in on the promise of all the new federal infrastructure money.”


Metchosin celebrates the status quo

Not far up the road from Royal Bay, the idyllic rural farming community of Metchosin is looking forward to different priorities in 2016.

“If we are talking about what to look forward to, it would be more of the same. We’ve been quite successful in assuring our direction as a rural alternative community,” said Metchosin Mayor John Ranns.

One of his objectives when he took over as mayor was to take a long look at working towards recession-proofing the community. In 2016, he believes the rural community would be capable of withstanding one, if a recession were to pass.

“Our finances are very well in order … We have reserves established for all anticipated infrastructure needs for the next 50 years,” he said. “If we continue our contribute to our cash reserves and keep tax increases at inflation … we have little to worry.”

With the biggest upcoming Metchosin project a new stairwell down to Witty’s Lagoon – an undertaking Ranns hopes the Capital Regional District will pay for as it is a CRD park – and the standard pavement upgrades on roads, community infrastructure is sound.

An issue that still presents a certain element of uncertainty, he said, is the topic of amalgamation, but he expects it will be addressed as the need arises.

One of his hopes for 2016 is positive change within the regional district.

“I hope that this year we can work on restoring some of the public confidence in the CRD,” Ranns said. “I know there is a widespread dissatisfaction with the way we are operating and I share it. Anytime you can make an effort to restore confidence in government, it’s a positive for everybody.”


New CAO, industrial plan top Highlands’ to-do list

The sewage debate, isn’t a hot topic in the District of Highlands, where only a portion of Bear Mountain is connected. But that doesn’t mean the District doesn’t have big plans in the works for 2016.

Mayor Ken Williams said it’s shaping up to be a busy year for council and staff, with a number of major projects coming up quickly.

The first change of note will be installing a new CAO, with the departure of Chris Coates. While the name of the successful candidate was unavailable by the Gazette’s press deadline, Williams said, “when we get our new CAO it’ll be a quick learning curve.”

Along with staff, council will continue the Highlands South Gateway Industrial Area review process, having received two rezoning applications that collectively cover roughly 100 acres of land. One of those is for the Millstream Meadows property, currently owned by the CRD.

“They want to sell the property, but they have to get it to compliance,” Williams said. The plan is to have ready a coherent land-use policy that fits the District’s plans for future development, when the time comes to sell Millstream Meadows or neighbouring industrial properties.

“It’s a big development. We’re looking at going through a process to look at our best options for the area,” he said.

In an effort to save residents money, Williams said, the District is working on a financial proposal to upgrade their already “excellent fire fighting service” to a new standard that reduces residential insurance rates.

The costs of this “higher level of training” will need to be compared with potential savings for residents, but Williams said taking that step could benefit residents, with faster response time standards and the potential purchase of a new fire truck.

In an effort to make Highlands residents more aware of services offered, the District will focus on marketing in the new year. That could see West Shore Parks and Recreation Society running programs out of the new community hall.

Also on council’s agenda for 2016 are a number of housekeeping tasks, such as bringing subdivision bylaws up to date, working on the next budget and preparing a questionnaire for residents on proposed changes to the soil deposit bylaw.

A number of items in the strategic plan will also be moving forward, Williams said. This will see new policies initiated on items such as secondary suites and a new citizen engagement process.

“Highlands council and staff anticipate fulsome and robust discussion with our committees and public on all of these important issues,” he said. “We have a couple initiatives … to get the community more engaged.” He added council will also be looking into the cost of videotaping or live streaming meetings so residents who can’t attend can still be involved.