Saturday, January 31, 2009

South Skirt Mountain Development - 5000 to 6000 more people within 20 years

There is a new proposal to develop the south side of Skirt Mountain in Langford - Skirt Mountain is where Bear Mountain Resort is located. The proposal seeks to develop some 84 hectares over the next 15 to 20 years. Many good details are at Inside Langford. The proposal to build about 2800 housing units speaks to about 5000 to 6000 people living in this area once it is built out.

In general the development is clearly well thought and environmentally friendly project. Locating this development close to the new Spencer Road interchange makes a lot of sense. The use of this land for housing also makes a lot of sense because it has no value for agriculture, industry or government. The value for forestry is also not high - I took a look at the forest cover maps and the area is not a high productivity forest, I would be surprised if the site averaged an MAI of 0.5 cubic meters per hectare.

The biggest concern could be ecological, but when one looks at the setting, this is not land of high ecological value. The location is a fragment that is badly isolated from other areas. This land is clearly not going to make a large difference to any environmental issues in the area.

In looking at the plans, there developer is going a long way in making the development green. 84 hectares of land in a typical suburb will provide space for about 800 to 1000 houses if the full footprint is used for houses and the related roads. This would house less than half the number of people planned for on the South Skirt Mountain development. The developer is also giving 40% of the land to the city to be park, including all the Garry Oak areas. This means the 5000 to 6000 people will be on only 50 hectares of land and make for one of the highest density areas in Greater Victoria - a higher density than James Bay by about 30%.

Zoe Blunt, who has strongly opposed the interchange at Spencer Road, is already raising strong concerns about the project, but it feels like NIMBYism to me.

My biggest concern is that this development continues a trend of moving people out of the core and to the edges. This means we will have more commuters going into the city. Of the people living there, about 3000 will be working and almost none of them on the Westshore. This will add another 2000 cars each way each day past Thetis Lake on Highway #1. This coupled with the Westhills development will lead to significantly worse traffic problems between the Westshore and Highway/McKenzie. The Westhills will eventually add another 5000 cars as well to the mix.

Yes, people will still be driving their own cars. If you do not believe me, check out the Mary Hill Bypass, Pitt River Bridge or the Deas Island Tunnel in the lower mainland to see what people are willing to put up with. We will not have rail transit, and even it were to exist, it would simply move existing bus passengers into the trains and not pick up much new traffic - see this earlier post of mine, and this, or this one. No one has made a business case for rail transit and I can not see how they would be able to.

The traffic capacity of Highway #1 is not going to be up for the number of people living out on the Westshore and we are going to have a horrific bottleneck at Highway #1 and Mckenzie unless the interchange is built there. Langford should put some of the money to build this needed road infrastructure.

The addition of people to the region should be done in the core. Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt and Victoria should be looking towards dramatic increases of density in a lot of neighbourhoods so that there is no demand for housing on the Westshore.
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