The past year has been filled with breaking news events, feel-good community stories and key service announcements for West Shore residents. These are the top stories of 2019, read online at goldstreamgazette.com.
The top stories of the year all involved construction updates on the McKenzie interchange project. It’s clear West Shore commuters are eager to see the completion of the project and in the meantime, how construction will impact them.
Motorists have had to contend with a number of delays this year as a result of changes to traffic signal timings and lane closures on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Traffic lights on Highway 1 at McKenzie Avenue have been removed and completion of the rest of the $96-million project is expected next summer, barring any more unforeseen delays.
One of the top stories of the year – as well as the subsequent follows – was the escape of two inmates from the William Head Institution in Metchosin.
Staff discovered Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch were not accounted for on Sunday, July 7. Busch was serving an indeterminate sentence for second-degree murder and assault. Armitage was serving a sentence of 13 years, 10 months and four days for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.
The pair noticed the tide was low and made a “spontaneous decision” to escape by walking along the shoreline, according to submissions from Armitage’s defence attorney at a later court appearance.
They evaded capture for two days and were located in Esquimalt after commenting on the size of a dog on the evening of July 9, unknowingly alerting its owner — an off-duty RCMP officer — to their location.
Armitage was given an additional year to his current sentence for the escape. Busch is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 13.
Rounding out the top three is a look at more amenities coming for West Shore residents.
The City of Langford has unveiled plans to turn a recently-acquired oceanfront property on Finlayson Arm into an eco-tourism and recreational site by the spring. The City acquired the 22-acre property located at 3680 Trans-Canada Hwy. this year for close to $2.2 million, which is expected to be paid over three years.
Over the winter months, Langford will work on basic improvements including painting and preparing the site and will engage with the neighbours to address any concerns they have. The City will also finalize programming options for the space with plans to release more details in the coming months.
Concerns over the future of Western Speedway caught the attention of readers this year.
Residents near Western Speedway came home to a flyer highlighting concerns about noise from the popular racetrack back in June. The flyer noted “the population affected by the noise coming from the Speedway has increased dramatically and at the same time the natural sound barriers on Millstream have been removed.” It called for people to reach out to the City to address the issue of noise abatement.
Two residents residing at the same address met with Coun. Lillian Szpak and Lorne Fletcher, manager of community safety and municipal enforcement. Szpak said the residents believe the noise from the Speedway is disturbing their day-to-day life.
She also noted, however, that about 10 years ago Langford applied a covenant to lands rezoned for residents to ensure they are made aware of the Speedway in case they failed to notice it while house hunting.
“It’s kind of like when you make people aware there’s a farm next door,” Szpak said. “Council has absolutely no plans on making any changes … that has never been entertained.”
A late morning shooting in Langford also drew the interest of readers.
On April 23, the West Shore RCMP was called to the Happy Valley Market in Langford after reports of a shooting outside the store at approximately 11 a.m. Two individuals fled the scene when police arrived but one suspect crashed into a commercial truck on Kelly Road. Police were already on scene for an unrelated crash and the suspect was taken into custody. Police also seized a firearm from the vehicle.
Police called the shooting a “targeted and isolated incident.”
And while not a local story, online readers were especially engaged with a viral video of two grizzly bears fighting along a northern B.C. highway. Cari McGillivray captured the footage and it’s a memory she’s not likely to forget any time soon. McGillivray posted the video to Facebook, showing two bears growling at each other along Highway 37 near Stewart, B.C.