A new community centre in the Shelbourne corridor is among the key features proposed in a draft local area plan for the Shelbourne area.
Caleb Horn, a recent planning graduate from McGill University and former president of the Camosun Community Association, spearheaded a new local area plan in partner with the Mount Tolmie Community Association. The goal is to replace the tired and otherwise obsolete 19-year-old LAP that serves the Shelbourne corridor south of McKenzie.
Horn said they are positive about Saanich’s new Shelbourne Valley Action Plan but only about 40 per cent of the Mount Tolmie and Camosun neighbourhoods overlap with the SVAP and that the two should work in concert.
“One doesn’t replace the other,” Horn said. “This is not in opposition to the action plan, it’s to provide an up-to-date version of the LAP.”
A new community centre in the heart of Shelbourne and a plan to protect the green space currently owned by BC Hydro along Haultain Avenue are two of the bigger ideas in the 91-page draft of the Mount Tolmie–Camosun Community Plan.
The draft is now open to public commentary for residents and neighbours through a survey at surveymonkey.com/r/mtccplan.
Marlene Davie, president of the MTCA, has been wanting to update the Shelbourne LAP since she started volunteering with MTCA 16 years ago.
Mount Tolmie and Camosun are in a rare situation as they are jointly covered by one LAP. Most Saanich LAPs correspond to a neighbourhood represented by a single community association.
As great as the SVAP is with bike lanes and added mobility options, it’s still just an amendment to the LAP, Davie said.
“The action plan and existing LAP don’t cover all the things that us, as a community, want to work on,” Davie said. “When [Horn] approached us, we thought it was a great opportunity for us to engage with our own community, it’s community engaging with community. We want to do some comparisons to the SVAP, and identify anything we as a community association can identity as a goal sooner rather than later.”
The absence of a community centre has come up with increasing occurrence over the years, she added.
“We have a wonderful area, the Shelbourne Valley, but no community centre, and that’s something I’m looking forward to seeing,” said Davie. “We want to shape Shelbourne Valley with more of a community feel. We’re missing some aspects, such as the used bookstore aspect we once had, though we do have an increase in eateries and traffic.”
Horn, who initially undertook the project as part of his thesis at McGill, said the Mount Tolmie-Camosun Community Plan is based on a visioning survey that ran in 2016 and had 110 responses (a number that is consistent with a Saanich survey).
Though there was a time when the Camosun Community Association had trouble finding enough members to fill the board – and talks of a merger with Mount Tolmie existed – the two associations are beyond that now, Horn said.
“These are distinct neighbourhoods. Mount Tolmie is focused at Shelbourne/Cedar Hill, whereas Camosun has a large panhandle that is quite removed from Saanich between Oak Bay and Victoria,” Horn said.
The ‘panhandle’ is a reference to the shape of the section of Saanich which juts south between Shelbourne/Richmond and Foul Bay Road as far south as Haultain Avenue. It’s an area that enjoys the green space between Kings and Haultain, and the former Richmond elementary school (which has been recently used to host schools undergoing seismic upgrades such as Cloverdale Traditional last year and George Jay the year before).
“We are asking that the Richmond school site be preserved as a school and the BC Hydro lands, which are giant fields between Kings and Haultain, be preserved as green space,” Horn said.
BC Hydro had planned to build a station there, once upon a time and it’s been empty ever since, Horn added. He suggested perhaps Saanich could come to an agreement with BC Hydro to exchange the lands for something elsewhere in Saanich, or have it zoned as park space.
“Basically it’s used as a dog walking park but it’s a unique thing to have, and Bowker Creek is day lighted there, so it’s quite valuable,” Horn said. “The hope is to attain some sort of legal certainty to protect it as green space.”
The survey closes on April 28.