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Civic election: Colwood debates ways to cope with rapid growth

With large new developments like Royal Bay and Royal Beach, planning on housing types, services, parkland and transportation are key issues in Saturday’s civic election

Colwood, once the quiet neighbour to fast-moving Langford, is now on a breakneck development pace of its own, as a huge former seaside gravel quarry fills up with new homes, schools and businesses.

The community of 18,961 people and 7,400 dwellings is projected to see more rapid growth in the next two decades — the city’s Official Community Plan is forecasting an increase in population of up to 31,000 and nearly double its ­current housing inventory, making prudent planning on housing types, ­services, parkland and transportation key issues in Saturday’s civic election.

Most of the new development is centred in the Royal Bay, Royal Beach, Latoria and Colwood Corners areas.

Rob Martin is facing a challenge from incumbent councillor Doug Kobayashi for the mayor’s chair, and 10 people are running for six councillor seats — including incumbents Stewart Parkinson, Cynthia Day and Dean Jantzen.

The new faces vying for positions around the table are David Grove, Steven MacAskill, Misty Olsen, Kim Jordison, Kim Mohns, Ian Ward and Sacha Veelbehr. Councillors Gordie Logan and Michael Baxter are not running again.

Kobayashi, a former air force engineer who grew up in Colwood and runs a consulting business, said he has knocked on more than 4,000 doors since the campaign began and has heard from everyone from young families concerned about climate change, traffic and public amenities for their children to seniors worried about aging in place and infrastructure like sidewalks, sewer and water.

He said many residents and property owners are telling him that Colwood has lost its way since the 2008 Official Community Plan, which is slated for review next year.

“Missing are key components of what makes communities great — increased opportunities for children, youth and families, a place for seniors who want to stay and age in place, and a welcoming place for front-line medical professionals,” said Kobayashi, adding the municipality also needs to attract more businesses and create more commercial space to diversify its tax base and reduce the property-tax burden on homeowners.

For Martin, a father of two who has lived in Colwood for more than two decades and runs his own surgical supply business, a key issue is improving transportation corridors that take commuters to Langford and Sooke, and bring Colwood residents home from working in other municipalities.

“Colwood needs to work with other municipalities to clear the congested transportation corridors that lead to and from our municipality,” said Martin.

He has been working on an approach that includes everything from more rapid bus lanes to light rail and a ferry to carry people from Royal Beach to downtown Victoria — and vice versa.

Martin, who is on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission board, said rapid bus lanes, now in use on Douglas Street, are coming to Sooke Road in the next two years. Those lanes, he said, won’t only help ease congestion, but will be the framework of light-rail transportation, and will help determine where housing needs to be densified.

As for the proposed ferry, developers of the $1.2-billion Royal Beach residential and commercial development say they’re holding a waterfront parcel for up to five years for a potential ferry terminal. The 135-acre waterfront development by Seacliffe Properties and Reliance Properties is expected to be built out over 15 years and eventually have 2,850 residential units.

B.C. Ferries completed a study in 2019 that indicated a ferry had potential to reduce traffic congestion in the region and increase transit use. But Martin said a new study is needed with modern costing and data.

Martin said a ferry connection between the West Shore and downtown Victoria would help the region achieve its clean energy goals, as an alternative to the single-occupancy vehicle.

But Kobayashi has questioned the viability of such a venture, saying that when he served as president of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, Black Ball Ferry Line looked at the crossing and indicated the waterway — known as Royal Roads — is unsuitable for a catamaran ferry for six to eight weeks a year because of rough water.

He’s also concerned about the prospect of a large parking lot at the launch point at Royal Roads. “It’s something we have to take a hard look at,” he said.

Martin, who was elected as councillor in 2011 and 2014 before winning the mayor’s seat in 2018, said he wants to finish what has been started — the former quarries now being developed with thousands of new homes, including a 110-bed seniors/dementia care centre, and the Royal B.C. Museum’s Archives and Collections complex, expected to bring hundreds of new employees.

As for Kobayashi, he said he stands for transparent governance and fostering community economic, social and environmental well-being. He also said Colwood has to get the most amenities it can from developers for the benefit of its citizens.

“I want Colwood to have a healthy, vibrant, inclusive and sustainable community where facilities, programs and services for children, youth, families, and seniors are readily available,” he said.

“I also want a city with well-managed core services and infrastructure that keeps pace with development.”

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