The Province is bullying. Take up pens!

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in View Royal it’s that traffic congestion is our greatest ongoing challenge and is worsening with each week.

View Royal is a geographic isthmus; a pinch point through which all traffic from north and west must funnel.

So why then would the Province override local government authority and, over the Town’s protests, insist on locating the BC Transit handyDART facility in the most congested corner of the region?

It was standing room only in our council chambers Tuesday as local residents expressed their dismay and concern about traffic,  environmental impacts on fish bearing Craigflower Creek and noise.

In bulldozing its will into View Royal, the government is demonstrating a lack of concern, not just for municipal authority, but for the congestion realities inflicted on this town. Meanwhile, our rail corridor remains unused and the Island Corridor Foundation which is attempting to get movement on the rails, unheard.

Mayor Screech is writing the Minister of Transportation rejecting the siting of the handyDART facility at 2401 Burnside Road West and calling on the Province not to proceed until issues such as noise, environmental impacts and traffic movement are addressed.

Meanwhile, I suggest residents take up pens – and other appropriate action – through letters to the editor, Transportation Minister Clair Trevena and our MLA Mitzi Dean.

 

To be or not to be – the case for affordable housing (and courteous communication)

One of the things I committed to prior to the local election last October was to communicate. And I strive to do that – in this blog (click ‘Follow’ or ‘Subscribe’ at the bottom of this site then click again to receive posts in your email), on Facebook and Twitter and in meetings and conversations with residents.

So in the vein of communicating, let me tell you about a letter I received yesterday. Delivered by snail mail and written anonymously it expresses concerns about a proposed CRD affordable housing development at the old trailer park site at Thetis Lake and casts some aspersions on me and my integrity.

The property is zoned for high density and, whether the proposed mixture of affordable and market value or all market value is built, development is inevitable. The issue facing council – the only issue – is whether to waive the development cost charges (that pay for infrastructure such as sewer and water) that would make the affordable housing project of 152 units (some low rent, many near market rate) possible.

For me, this has been a difficult issue and discussion. I’ve listened intently to the opinions of my council colleagues and been candid and vocal in saying I don’t think the site is ideal. A location more central to services would clearly be preferable for affordable housing, but the CRD has identified the Thetis location as the only possible site in View Royal and perhaps allowing people to have a place to call home trumps that.

The fact remains that in 2017 the property was rezoned to allow the construction of up to 350 units in four buildings plus townhouses. Based on that 2017 decision by the previous council, the property is destined for density – whether all market value or a mix.

Based on that, I’m interested in hearing the reasons some people are opposed to the proposed project and look forward to speaking to residents at the May 7 DCC open house at town hall.

Further to yesterday’s unpleasant correspondence: this is the second unattributed letter I’ve received – the first arrived in my mailbox before I’d even been sworn in. I’m understanding first hand why caring and thoughtful people willing to build community, are reluctant to seek elected office.

 

 

Rosie the Riveter time on climate action and a step toward affordable housing in View Royal

On hearing that Canada is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the world, there was a kind of urgency around the table at the first meeting of the CRD Climate Action Inter–Municipal Task Force this morning.

Several municipalities – including View Royal – have declared climate emergencies with a goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. We’ve made the declaration and we’re clear that doing what-we-can-where-we-live to save the planet is a priority. But how to get there?

Some municipalities are innovative in raising awareness and providing incentives. But what really caught my attention was the comparison by one task force member to war. The onset of WWII galvanized purpose and innovation and that’s what we need here, he said.

At this initial meeting we heard from Clean BC staff about initiatives and fast-coming goals that could mean a different looking world. All electric vehicles on the roads, including transport, in 20 years? It’s likely.

This group was slated to meet twice a year, but given that time is of the essence, we expect to gather monthly. I’ll report out.

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In other news, View Royal stepped up to help with the housing affordability crisis Tuesday. Council gave first to third readings of a bylaw to waive development cost charges for not-for-profit rental housing, which will help pave the way for a proposed 152-unit development at West Park Lane by Thetis Lake. The project would see a mix of units at income assistance, affordably priced and near-market rates.

For my part, I don’t think the location of the proposed development is ideal given the distance to schools and services. But helping people have a roof over their head trumps any inconvenience. Hopefully, should it be approved,  BC Transit will be convinced of the need for service in that part of View Royal.

 

 

Residents give View Royal a resounding thumbs up

Turns out View Royal residents are really happy with their town. Really happy. Like 99%.

Tim Chan of NRG Research Group brought the news to council last night in a report of the outcome of a 401-household survey (results of those who did the survey online are yet to come) of resident satisfaction with View Royal and town services.

Here’s what people said:

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All in all, residents are happy here. But that traffic . . .

Of quality of life in View Royal, 59% rate it as ‘very good’ and 40% said ‘good’. 1% didn’t have an answer.

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No prize for guessing which issue is the most aggravating.

You got it. Traffic.

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Interesting to note that a majority of those surveyed said they’d be okay with paying higher taxes to maintain current town service levels.

The information gleaned from the survey will guide council as we go through strategic planning exercises in the coming weeks.

The report is posted on the town website (www.viewroyal.ca). It’s pretty good reading.

 

View Royal makes a climate declaration for the future and the 21st century could meet the 1800s at Craigflower Manor

Some 13,000 kilometres away live two little girls who occupy half my heart (the other half is also spoken for).

It’s summer there and asphalt melts on days where the temperature is well into the 40s. In some parts of the country, drought is so persistent that kangaroos have fled to the coast – easy road kill in their weakness – and six-year old children have never seen rain.

Last night’s motion– unanimously approved by View Royal council – to declare a climate emergency was about them, the children of this generation, and the next and the next. They may be thousands of clicks away, but we’ve a responsibility to do what we can, where we can and with the tools we have.

Among those to encourage us to respond to CRD chair Colin Plant’s request that municipalities join the CRD in declaring a climate emergency were two children, participants in the global climate strike movement begun by Germany’s Greta Thunberg. A world in which children can grow and thrive isn’t a lot to ask.

To my council colleagues and me, the response was clear. Climate will be a priority in our strategic planning as we set on a course to be carbon neutral by 2030, an undertaking that won’t be easy but strikes us as essential.

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In other news, council approved third reading to rezone the site of our historic Craigflower Manor, a step toward a potential cultural/community centre on the southwest corner of the property at Island Highway and Admirals Road. The building proposed by the Victoria Highland Games Society is low, round, and cool – like a flying saucer landed in a 1857 farm yard.

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Concept drawing of a proposed community and cultural centre at Craigflower Manor site by d’Ambrosio Architecture.

A few people spoke at a public hearing, one of them a neighbour who has no problem with such a development, as long as it won’t mean more bagpipes.

There’s a distance to go before ground can be broken, but View Royal could truly benefit from a gathering place.

It was great to see a full house in the council chambers. It’s not a frequent sight and it’s wonderful to see people interested and engaged in this community.

In the beginning …

Back when I was a reporter – and I promise this blog won’t be a series of back-in-the-day posts – I spent every Monday night at council meetings. No matter how small or large the town, there was always a media table where I, the local print competitors and the broadcast media, would fidget waiting for somebody to say something quotable.

That was then. Media of all varieties have taken a kicking since then and print – my thing – has been particularly hard hit.

So, herewith, my on going points of view – from the council table. Admittedly, some will not be pure unbiased reporting. But that’s where I’m sitting now.

Hope you’ll tune in from time to time.