Tensions are rising as the expiry of a 60-day ban on semi-trailer trucks on Hovey and Tomlinson roads approaches.
The ban is set to expire on May 21.
Solving conflicting road use issues has been a puzzle proving difficult for the District of Central Saanich and the issue has created a constant dispute between residents and VI Pallet Recovery & Logistics, whose trucks use the road to conduct business. Tensions have risen so much over the past few months that there are claims from both sides of verbal harassment.
Mayor Ryan Windsor said council is trying to find a permanent solution to this problem.
“We see often where relations between parties break down,” he said. “Whether it’s on a development or on an issue of land use or as this is … a trucking issue. The relationships can break down and they can become problematic.”
He added council doesn’t involve themselves in the bickering, as it’s beyond their scope.
Windsor said he encourages both parties to be respectful of one another.
Central Saanich Police Chief Les Sylven said police have been working hard to address the issues. Police were tasked with enforcing the council-imposed restriction of semi-tractor trailers for the period of March 21 to May 21
“From the very beginning of this, we’ve been meeting with residents and working with council and meeting with the business owners of VI Pallet, and with community members from Tsartlip and trying to come to a resolution to this dispute,” he said.
“Our first priority is responding to calls when anyone calls us for assistance, we are there. But on top of that our officers are patrolling that stretch of road at least once a day, sometimes more.”
For residents, many are feeling frustrated and simply disappointed by the way council is handling the situation.
“I’ve never felt so unheard,” said resident Sydney Murphy, adding she is uncomfortable with the situation and feels as though her and other residents are being ignored by the District.
“We all want to be farmers and we’re not interested in having this harassment,” she told the PNR, adding, “we want our peace and quiet back.”
A group of residents along Hovey and Tomlinson roads held a walk recently to let people know they stand together for safety. Eva Jaycox said people have lived and worked together there for more than 100 years, stating relationships are strong and will not be divided by this road issue.
“We will remain strong and continue working together for the benefit of all of our community members,” she said.
Nathan Cooper, owner of the property leased to VI Pallet, sat down with the PNR. One of the company’s owners, Kevin Gray, did not comment.
“We’d like to be left alone,” he said.
Having owned the land for around seven years, Cooper said it was promised to him by his grandparents. He addressed the various harassment claims, stating his rules from the beginning were to never harass anyone on the road. He said if anyone is being disruptive, he addresses it right away. He said he feels harassment towards him on a regular basis. He did, however, admit he took down a sign put up by a resident, and brought it to police.
“I feel like I’m being singled out really bad,” he said, adding, “(the residents are) never going to be happy.”
Cooper, who has an affiliation with VI Pallet, said the company’s plan was to use Hovey Road temporarily until there was another route built connecting the property to West Saanich Road. Cooper said the best they can do is schedule the trucks better.
Windsor said the District’s engineering department determined there would be impacts on the road from extended use by larger vehicles and that the bedding underneath Hovey is insufficient to support those vehicles on a long term basis.
“The road itself, it’s well known, doesn’t conform to the municipal standard in terms of its width. (It) probably doesn’t conform to the proper standard for road construction, period, but like all districts, we have prioritized actions and the most pressing needs get met first and Hovey was not necessarily one of those that was considered very pressing.”
He said council simply needs to make a decision.
“I think we have an idea but we also need to make sure that decision stands up to any test that would be thrown at it.”
Road issues back on council agenda
The District of Central Saanich is expected to address the Hovey Road issue at its May 9 meeting. The discussion will touch on many issues prior to the May 21 expiry of a heavy truck ban on the road.