In March, 2021, The Discourse released a survey to West Shore communities about development. We received over 100 responses filled with opinions on problems, possibilities and what stories need to be told.
A great deal of the responses showed concern for the environment as well as issues related to transportation and infrastructure. Comments about how to accommodate a growing population in a sustainable way were in the survey as well. Transparency between residents and municipal councils was also a common issue brought up in responses.
When it came to solutions to these issues, respondents said they’d like to see more community consultations, as well as safeguards for green spaces and infrastructure to make communities more walkable and accessible. Many respondents also said they want to see transportation issues addressed.
These responses were thoughtful, meaningful and much appreciated as we begin to roll out our series, Delving Into Development, over the coming weeks. They’ll be used to help drive our coverage so that we can outline issues that matter most to you as well as possible solutions to those issues.
Here are some responses to the first three questions in our survey. We’ve removed names and identifying information from the responses.
What problems, threats and challenges do you see when it comes to development and balancing development with a growing population?
“Development is important! But I think it could be better balanced with maintaining green space. Green spaces are being preemptively cleared when no developments are planned for them. Prioritize maintaining rare species and ecosystems.”
“I’ve seen far too much natural landscape disappear. Development needs to be better designed to integrate wild spaces, parks, etc. Is there any planning around traffic (especially before Covid)? Public transportation continues to plague the Westshore. I’m in favour of the ferry proposal and would be open to other ideas as well – gondola, etc.”
“We are probably not building enough housing to accommodate all of the people who want to live here. The people who already live here are trying to maintain a status quo, which isn’t really viable.”
“Managing growth is always a tremendous challenge, whether it’s related to a small business, your family, or our evolving West Shore community. One of our biggest issues, in my opinion, is a general lack of familiarity when it comes to the local development process. For those who do not operate within the development/approval sector on a daily basis, understanding the fundamental mechanics of bylaws, permits, official community plans, etc. can be difficult. This makes it much harder for their concerns to be properly articulated and given due consideration by decision-makers.”
“I am not opposed to density, affordable housing or rental accommodation but see a serious lack of commensurate planning for public space. There must be adequate access to a variety of parks – a per resident to area formula. Natural spaces balanced with recreational and consideration of biodiversity and ecosystems. Community planning for public space must be done prior to development approval.
Additionally, the impacts of climate change on development must be prioritized. Tree protection bylaws are needed. No more clear cuts. Riparian areas must be protected. Also, consideration of nesting areas and seasons when removing large areas of trees. Habitat loss is a serious concern.”
“A lack of multi-use trail systems linking neighbourhoods. I often hop in my car because new development and lack of trail systems blocks me from walking to local businesses.”
“I worry about the effects of climate change on Sooke: more forest fires, rising sea level, more storms and other ‘weather events.’ To deal with climate change, Sooke needs to significantly reduce the level of Green House gas emissions, and to increase our carbon sink (by not cutting down forests!). Sooke signed the CRD Climate Emergency Declaration and goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Yet, its population is growing at a fantastic rate. Sooke’s population (around 13,000) is projected to grow to 17,800 (based on 3.2% annual pop growth from the 2019 Housing Needs Report, Stats Canada). Higher population, more houses, more forests cut down, more transportation. How can we possibly become carbon neutral by 2030?”
“This is a wide open question … probably my biggest concern is propagating the status quo of urban sprawl and development by looking a project by project basis or political gain rather than long term planning, including:
- Community growth (what is the strategy) and how does it tie into the next points?
- Transportation (all encompassing including walking, biking, bus, and cars)
- Livable spaces where residents can have amenities close by that can be accessed by all citizens in a safe way (i.e. walk to grocery store/ parks/ schools with sidewalks/ trails/ bike paths to safely get to and from these places)
- Limited and old ideas that communities like the West Shore should be bedroom communities with only housing with limited other businesses and amenities rather than destinations to live, work, and play in their own accord.”
Where do you see opportunities and development-related solutions?
“Think strategically, longer-term. Create values and principals that balance economic development with quality of life and respect for the natural environment. Respect the natural resources as a way to invite people in vs. being turned off by all the dense development. Promoting more small business in the Westshore that can employ people living in the area, thereby reducing commuter traffic.”
“I see that more development brings more vitality, employment and spurs the local economy.”
“I would love to see the money being poured into more and more development [put] into the community. A community centre for teens to support the growing mental health crisis, protection of green space so high density housing has space to move and breathe, a city centre with a more community feel, more walkability.”
“Opportunities: diversifying the local economy, innovating the way new (i.e. “blank slate”) development can be done, avoiding historical mistakes around land use planning.
Development-related Solutions: wide range of suitability for almost any type of land use, highly efficient business/regulatory climate for prospective investors, willingness of local government to try different approaches (no one can accuse Langford of being afraid to break the mould!).”
“I believe that if Langford Council, in particular, were to reach out to and actively engage with the community and its residents they would find opportunities for solutions to balance development with other important community priorities. I also think that the West Shore would benefit if the municipalities worked collaboratively (e.g. Langford, View Royal, Colwood, etc.) to identify areas that should be developed and have a unified transportation and infrastructure strategy and master plan. Our municipalities are very interconnected and would therefore benefit from this approach.”
“Consultation with the public through committees and community groups. Long term planning with climate targets and goals in place.”
“Allow commercial rezoning of some outlying residential properties to encourage commercial development outside the downtown core area. We need restaurants, grocery stores etc to be more accessible by means other than vehicles!”
“I see the next municipal election as the biggest opportunity.”
“We need to look after our seniors. Age in place communities and senior centred communities with close amenities should be made a priority.”
“Increase support to local businesses. Build a vibrant inner core that keeps Sookies shopping in town (and not having to drive to Langford or Victoria to shop). Enhance our sustainable tourism industry with public access to the harbour front, more green spaces, cycling lanes, a community market and crafts centre where locally grown food can be sold, and local artists can exhibit their work. Promote environmental tourism — teaching people to protect our wildlife and environment.”
“I love the fact that there are MUCH more opportunities for our families now than there were when I was growing up. I love the fact that I can walk to a pub, I’m close by to getting groceries. I worry about the rate of development, the given crime increase that potentially happens so I’d want to see infrastructure and necessary patrolling and measures in place.”
“The Westshore needs a hospital, more doctor clinics with adequate staffing of doctors, schools with proper transportation and safe sidewalks (Latoria Road specifically), more shared government work spaces (the traffic in and out of town is stress-inducing and terrible for the environment – not to mention parking is expensive and difficult to come by).”
What individuals or organizations are doing good work in the space of development that should be highlighted?
“Royal bay – it was built on an already located gravel pit limiting destruction of forests.”
“The City of Langford. Urban Development Institute.”
“I suppose the new bike park [Jordie Lunn Bike Park] is a pretty great offering to the community by the city of Langford.”
“New Facebook page Langford Voters for Change.”
“The Forest Alliance of BC. I am not aware of groups in Langford but of groups in Metchosin such as The Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin and The Metchosin Foundation. In B.C., land trusts ensure land is not stripped of its habitat and natural features.”
“Sooke School District”
“Langford Planning Department: these folks exist at the interface between developers, politicians, and the general public. Given the explosive growth over these last 15 years, and remembering that each local municipality is still a very small town in terms of staffing, their work is constantly scrutinized and underappreciated, in my opinion.
Developers like Royal Bay, Westhills, and more recently, SD62, are doing an admirable job. These projects, which invest massive amounts of money into our local economy, are big targets for criticism and cannot simply disappear and reemerge with a clean slate at another property like some other parties tend to do.
Also a big shout out to the local excavation sector — Scansa, Lakewood, etc. — these groups keep our infrastructure running and take a lot more pride in their very difficult work than most people realize.”
“M’akola housing society.”
“The plan for integrated walking spaces in the Colwood area is fabulous! Really appreciate the planning going into the Royal Bay development. Colwood needs a public market area especially for local farmers and artisans. I hope this can be included in the Royal Bay planning for public spaces. We need a communal downtown public gathering space for our community even if we don’t have a downtown.”
“I like the walkability of the new Belmont Park. It has a park for kids and seating area for picnics and outdoor coffees etc. The new children’s playground at Royal Bay is also excellent and the outdoor space running through the development is very nice.”
“The City of Colwood generally seems to be much more forward thinking in terms of consulting with residents, providing specific detailed short-term and long-term plans, and working with residents during development. Likewise Metchosin and Sooke. The Western Community Seniors Low Cost Housing Society (741 Station Avenue seniors’ housing).”
This Delving Into Development article is made possible in part with funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Journalists for Human Rights. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced.