Residents ask Ombudsperson’s office to investigate Central Saanich

Truck traffic conflict on Hovey and Tomlinson roads still not resolved after months of hand-wringing.

Hovey Road resident Terry Forsyth walks along the rural road. Residents have made a complaint to the B.C. Ombudsperson’s office over Central Saanich’s handling of the conflict.

Signs, truck ban extensions, speed bumps and a police presence don’t seem to be helping the residents of Hovey Road or the owners of VI Pallet.

Now, residents have banded together and have filed a complaint with the B.C. Ombudsperson’s office over the District of Central Saanich’s actions — or lack of them — on this issue.

The Hovey Tomlinson and Area Community Group put a package together to send to the ombudsperson about their concerns. According to two of the group’s members, they heard back from the Ombudsperson’s office last week that an investigation will take place and that the municipality has been informed. The B.C. Ombudsperson’s office would not confirm to the PNR that they have started an investigation.

“It doesn’t matter what signs they put up, you’ve got to be able to enforce them,” said Terry Forsyth, one of the many concerned residents on Hovey Road, adding residents made many complaints to the District over the issue of truck traffic on what is a rural road.

“The one they’re following up on is lack of response from council,” he said of the Ombudsperson’s investigation.

According to Forsyth and another member of the residents’ group who didn’t want their name used, the Ombudsperson’s office will investigate whether council is following, or have followed, a reasonable process in responding to residents’ concerns on commercial truck traffic.

The issue has been going on for almost a year, with large semi-trucks banned on Hovey and Tomlinson roads due to safety issues and road conditions.

It’s an issue that has been discussed by the District of Central Saanich many times with still no end result in sight.

The big concern for residents is safety and for VI Pallet, it’s about operating a business and serving their customers.

Mayor Ryan Windsor said he doesn’t have a lot of details but was aware that residents had contacted the ombudsperson for help.

He said the District has been undertaking a process with their legal experts and feel they have strong and thorough advice from their legal team.

Windsor said the municipality has taken temporary action while they attempt to find a more permanent solution to the condition of the road, which he said hasn’t seemed to satisfy the neighbours.

“We have taken the steps that we feel to date are appropriate to get us to a longer term resolution,” he said.

Residents have asked for some bylaw changes, the mayor continued, which serves as the basis for the temporary ban.

The matter has led to allegations of vandalism and harsh words from both sides. Forsyth claimed there has been a lot of vandalism on signs recently.

Forsyth added he’s also seen road repair work done recently by the municipality, another issue residents claim is due to the heavy truck traffic.

“As far as the road repair goes, I’d caution the neighbourhood (not) to make assumptions. The fact is … we’ve identified (the road) is not a good road in terms of its base. It’s got deficiencies …” said Windsor.

The District’s Director of Engineering and Public Works David McAllister said routine maintenance was completed on Hovey, much like it is for other routes in the community.

McAllister said the road is no worse than what they’ve experienced in other years.

For Forsyth, the solution is simple: keep the trucks off the road.

“The longer you leave it, the more they dig their heels in, the more trailers they haul in.”

Forsyth also claims drivers of the trucks are operating in the middle of the night, which VI Pallet co-owner Kevin Gray said is not the case.

“That’s absolute nonsense ….” he said, also referencing claims his employees are involved in incidents of vandalism.

Gray said he is concerned with farmers losing any kind of transport access to their farms if the municipality continues to not allow local deliveries by larger vehicles.

He said when the company first moved into the lot at the end of Hovey Road, there was nothing prohibiting them from being there.

“There was no truck route to start with. Even if they had changed that, which they could have legally done to accept local delivery, there’s nothing in the law that says we can’t (use the road for local delivery),” he said.

Gray said he’s told the municipality he voluntarily would keep the tractor trailers off the road until a new road gets cut through to West Saanich Road. He also requested they speak with the provincial and federal governments, asking them for additional funding.

VI Pallet’s holding lot is now on land near the Victoria International Airport. Gray said they are unable to do any work there because of zoning limitations.

Gray said the whole situation has really caused a lot of stress and has cost the company money.