Province overrules View Royal; plans to build handyDART facility

View Royal Mayor calls province’s actions “heavy handed” and “unusual”

Despite objections from residents and council, the provincial government is moving forward with plans to build a handyDART facility in View Royal.

HandyDART is an accessible, door-to-door shared transit service for people with permanent or temporary disabilities that prevent them from using fixed-use transit without assistance from another person, according to BC Transit.

The regional facility, which will be at 2401 Burnside Rd. W. near Craigflower Creek, was rejected by View Royal in June 2018 after the town heard several concerns about environmental impacts, noise, parking and air quality to name a few. The BC Transit proposal would have required a rezoning of the land and but the rezoning was withdrawn by council.

In a June letter, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena notified council that the property on Burnside Road was being designated as an arterial highway, allowing the government to bypass View Royal bylaws to build the facility.

READ ALSO: View Royal turns down regional handyDART proposal

It was a move that “strong-armed” View Royal, according to Mayor David Screech.

“Land use is the purview of local governments and it’s extremely unusual for the province to overrule local governments on the matter of land,” Screech said. “I think it’s an extremely heavy-handed maneuver…I don’t think the government realizes the gravity of this move and the precedent it’s setting.”

While the issue has been addressed in-camera in previous meetings, Screech said it is being taken public at the Sept. 17 council meeting “so residents can comment and know what happens.”

As far as residents were concerned, this was an issue that was put to bed last year, Screech said. Now staff are recommending the Town of View Royal meet with BC Transit to come to an agreement for the purpose of moving forward with the handyDart project, despite the current Parks and Recreation designated land use for the property.

Screech said he anticipates council will write a letter to Trevena with a list of expectations and requirements as they move forward with the project. The Town has already received e-mails and letters from residents upset plans for the facility are moving ahead.

“My comment to the province is to approach this differently,” Screech said. “How can we go about this in a way that we can make it right for View Royal?”

A written statement from Trevena said BC Transit is working with View Royal on the facility, which rests on land that has been owned by the B.C. government since the 1990s.

When the facility is built, the existing one on Glanford Avenue will be moved to the new location so the old one can become another transit centre for BC Transit’s conventional fleet.

READ ALSO: HandyDART proposal in View Royal met with pushback

“This new facility is essential to allow BC Transit to grow its fleet – both handyDART and conventional – to schedule more buses on more routes to meet the ever increasing demand for public transit in Greater Victoria,” Trevena said. “BC Transit facilities within Greater Victoria are at capacity. If we do nothing there will be a direct impact on people who live and work in Greater Victoria who rely on public transit because (BC) Transit won’t be able to implement its planned expansion.”

The Minister said the province and BC Transit will work with View Royal to make sure the facility is built “to the high standards required by the community.”

An e-mail statement from BC Transit said it is pleased the province is enabling the Burnside Road site for use as a new handyDART facility. It also says the existing one is at capacity and will not accommodate expansion.

BC Transit says more details will be released in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Screech said more discussion about the province’s actions in overruling the Town of View Royal needs to take place.

“A … negotiation, discussion and offering of community amenities has to happen and it hasn’t happened yet,” Screech said.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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