Rural road use leaves Saanich Peninsula communities at odds

Residents and neighbouring First Nation speaking out on issues of safety, racism

Conflicts between trucks

Councillors with the District of Central Saanich heard heated comments from members of the community on the still ongoing Hovey Road situation.

The stretch of rural road has been the topic of a safety debate between concerned residents and council for the past year. Concerns of safety came into play because of the use of heavy trucks operated by VI Pallet Recovery and Logistics.

At last week’s committee of the whole meeting, councillors discussed their Traffic Highways Regulation Amendment Bylaw. This would place truck restrictions over a portion of Hovey Road. It would also contemplate extraordinary traffic agreements if an applicant were to propose using trucks that would otherwise be restricted by the bylaw.

Council also discussed another bylaw that introduces amendments to the Municipal Ticketing Information Bylaw that would provide bylaw enforcement fines associated with the Traffic Highways Regulation Amendment Bylaw.

Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Robins said the amendment places restrictions on a portion of Hovey Road and restricts certain truck traffic.

“Should parties wish to operate trucks  that were restricted under that amendment they can make an application to the municipality for an extraordinary traffic agreement to run trucks that would otherwise be restricted over that portion of the road,” said Robins.

He said it’s not a universal bylaw and does not place restrictions over the entire road network in Central Saanich.

Residents of Hovey and Tomlinson Roads came forward on Monday to oppose the bylaw amendments.

One of those residents was Terry Forsyth of Hovey Road.

He and others in the Hovey Tomlinson and Community Association — a group formed to take a stance on the road — paid for a road safety report, done by Jennifer Kroeker-Hall — a Victoria-based consultant, whose company specialized in public and road safety issues, among other things.

Forsyth said the District is only talking about the unimproved portion of Hovey Road. He said that should the neighbouring Tsartlip Band get the right-of-way to that portion of road, all this work will be for nothing.

“We’re only talking about trucks that want to go onto the right of way,” he said, adding the community will end up right back where they were a year ago, with any trucks being able to use the road.

Through a lengthy back and forth with councillors, Forsyth offered what he believed to be a solution. He is asking that  trucks over 5,500 kilograms be restricted to designated truck routes, unless making a local delivery.

The main concern Forsyth and residents have is safety on the roads.

Tsartlip Band Councillor Joni Olsen disagreed with Forsythe’s assessment of the issue.

“Your people are safe on Hovey Road, nobody’s ever been hurt on Hovey Road,” she said.

Olsen, who has worked on Tsartlip council for 10 years, said she has seen all sorts of cross-cultural issues between the two communities which is why, she said, the people of Tsartlip have not wanted to meet on the road issue.

“If you don’t think that we know what it’s like to be put into an unsafe position as a community, you’re joking yourself,” she said.

Olsen added she feels the whole Hovey Road matter has undertones of racism.

“There’s no business there anymore,” she said. “There will be increased traffic — the majority of it will be residential — and then we’ll see who truly is racist in this room.”

Central Saanich resident Al Lambeth said it’s not a race issue for the residents and it never has been.

“This has always been about the trucks and the traffic and safety and the degradation of our roads,” he said.

Robins cautioned councillors to move ahead with the District’s bylaw amendment plans, as he said Forsyth’s suggestion would lack force and effect.

“We’ve done the analysis before and I’m not sure … that it’s lawful based upon the current bylaw,” said Robins.

Central Saanich councillors gave third reading to their proposed bylaw amendments Monday and are expected to finalize them soon.