Mayoral challenger wants Colwood to be more development-friendly

As sitting councillor Rob Martin challenges two-term Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, both see the next four years as crucial to the municipality’s transformation from bedroom community to vibrant urban centre.

While neighbouring Langford booms, Colwood’s development path has been more checkered, with stop-and-start developments at Colwood Corners and the giant hole on Wale Road at the site of the former Silkwinds high-rise condominium.

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Work needs to be done to make the community more development-friendly, said Martin, 50, a two-term councillor and CEO of a medical supply company.

“People want to see growth here in our community and they want to see business get developed,” said Martin, who argues that Colwood has been too antagonistic to the development community. Martin said when he speaks to developers who own properties in both Colwood and Langford, they tell him it’s much easier to get projects off the ground in Langford.

Hamilton said she’s just as upset to see stalled development projects, but she countered that it’s not council’s fault that developers flip or default on projects.

Hamilton said Colwood needs to further promote waterfront communities such as Royal Bay, which are increasingly attracting young families. “I want it to be spectacular.”

Martin, too, sees the potential in Royal Bay as the new downtown core of Colwood. “We have to stop thinking that Colwood Corners is our downtown core. I envision a boardwalk, cafés, a post-secondary [school]. I would love to see a Camosun College campus down there.”

Currently, 93 per cent of Colwood’s tax base is residential and Martin said growing the business tax base would allow the municipality to do creative things.

“We continually say that we want to be a walkable community, but we don’t build the infrastructure and businesses in place to allow that,” he said.

Martin said many residents he’s talked to are asking for sidewalks, particularly in front of schools.

Hamilton said building sidewalks is a priority, but it must be done in a fiscally responsible way that doesn’t result in a huge tax increase to the community.

Transportation is a key issue in a community all too familiar with the rush-hour congestion to and from Victoria known as the “Colwood crawl.”

Hamilton said the cost of a rapid-transit line connecting the West Shore to Victoria would be “astronomical,” so the focus should be on building high-occupancy-vehicle lanes along the entire length of the Trans-Canada Highway and encouraging people to get on buses.

“If I can move buses faster than cars, maybe more people will get on them and that will lessen the car factor,” said Hamilton.

Both Hamilton and Martin also talked about the possibility of a sea bus running from Royal Bay to Victoria as a means of reducing traffic congestion. “We’re not going to resolve our regional transportation corridors in the conventional ways,” Martin said.

Vying for the six council positions are incumbents Cynthia Day, Gordie Logan and Jason Nault and new candidates Michael Baxter, Dean Jantzen, Doug Kobayashi, Scott McDonald, Eve Millington, Misty Olsen, Stewart Parkinson and Aaron Weisgerber.

Martin thinks it’s time for fresh leadership on council, citing big corporations that cycle through CEOs every five-to-seven years.

But Hamilton, 63, said she wants a third term to build on her progress over the last seven years, which includes securing affordable-housing projects on Sooke Road and Wale Road and working with regional politicians to solve transportation issues.

Hamilton said she’s proud of her work in ushering in an official community plan that includes initiatives on arts and culture, food security, transportation and the environment.

She said she’s spent the last two terms building a cohesive council that values community consultation and has become more transparent, thanks to webcast council meetings.

“If Rob has seen success on council, it’s because of the work we’ve done as a team,” said Hamilton.

Martin is well aware of the challenge he faces in unseating the incumbent, especially considering Hamilton’s landslide win in the 2014 election, where she garnered 84 per cent of the vote.

Martin, who secured the highest number of votes among the six councillors in that election, sees this election as a generational shift that centres on how Colwood is going to develop over the next decade.

“We have to stop thinking we’re going to do business as usual.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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