Victoria is calling on the Capital Regional District to take action to combat incremental urban sprawl — particularly in the Juan de Fuca electoral area.
“I think we have seen incremental sprawl over a number of years, moving from lands that were zoned and used for forestry to be large estate parcels originally 160 hectares, and now we’re seeing four hectares,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.
“These incremental sort of compromises are leading to the loss of greenspace, and I think the policy that’s much more supportable is a firm policy of urban containment.”
Isitt’s comments came as Victoria councillors considered two proposed amendments to the Regional Growth Strategy — one redesignating 154 hectares in Metchosin to facilitate an industrial/residential development proposed in partnership with Langford, Metchosin and the Beecher Bay First Nation; and the other to redesignate 1,779 hectares in Shirley-Jordan River as Renewable Resource Policy area from Rural Residential.
While supporting the amendments, Victoria councillors agreed with Isitt to put the city on record as expressing concern about incremental sprawl and supportive of any measures the CRD can take to strengthen urban containment.
Isitt said he believes most city residents want to see the rugged Juan de Fuca lands preserved “for biodiversity and for recreation and for resource use and not being used for housing and other types of urban development which are more properly located in the more established built up areas through densification.”
Coun. Geoff Young spoke in support. “We see a constant parade of grant requests in the Gulf Islands and throughout the lower-density areas of the region requesting and often receiving higher-level government assistance to upgrade water services and so forth because they are so expensive to provide,” Young said.
“A lot of the subsidization is invisible. It takes place through our B.C. Hydro bills and we don’t even think about it, but of course it is vastly more expensive to provide hydro and cable vision to areas of low density and our residents pay without even knowing they are paying.”
Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks said there is no discernible sprawl in his area. “We’re already restricted to one hectare parcels. That’s 2 1/2 acres,” Hicks said.
“Sometimes I feel that I’m on a totally different planet from some of the Victoria councillors, let alone in the same region.”
Mayor Lisa Helps said that in taking a strong position on urban containment, the city has to be prepared to be more open to densification.
“I know that’s a really contentious and challenging thing sometimes when maybe higher than usual or denser than usual developments come to us. But it has to go both ways,” Helps said.