EDITOR’S NOTE: At a council meeting June 1, Langford council rescinded a April 6 motion to waive public hearings, and are now going to conduct electronic or phone-in hearings like most other jurisdictions. The staff report recommending rescinding the April measure said: “Although waiving a Public Hearing and holding electronic Council meetings affords the public additional opportunity to address Council on the topic of a Public Hearing, the practice of waiving Public Hearings is sufficiently novel to the Public that it is the cause for some concern. Recent press suggests that the public expects that they will have an opportunity to be heard at a specific Public Hearing. In this instance, it may be prudent to give the public this opportunity.”
BY ROSS CROCKFORD
Langford is already famous around the capital region for its rapid-fire, debate-free Council meetings, but it seemed to set a new speed record on May 4. In a half-hour, socially-distanced conference call, Langford’s Council approved a parks maintenance contract, a five-year financial plan, an alternate property-tax collection scheme – and gave final approval to several contentious developments, without holding a public hearing for any of them.
The biggest of those developments involved 50 acres of mostly forested land on either side of the Trans-Canada Highway and immediately east of the Leigh Road overpass, once belonging to the reclusive Victoria property owner Clara Kramer. Langford’s Council voted unanimously to rezone the Kramer lands as a “mixed-use employment” district, permitting anything from apartments and offices to car dealerships and liquor stores.
Letters of opposition appeared in the agenda package for Langford councillors, however. TLC The Land Conservancy warned that the property included a wetland, and a significant stand of endangered Garry oaks. But the most troubling messages came from elderly residents of a trailer park south of the highway, afraid that the rezoning and development would force them to move, and upset that they couldn’t voice their concerns at a regular public hearing.
“Most of the residents have either vision or hearing problems or no computers so it makes it difficult to keep informed of what’s going on during the meeting,” one resident wrote. “I think it’s very unfair to go ahead with this meeting without giving all of us a chance to be involved.”
“50 percent of my neighbours are in their 80s and 90s and feel the same, the difficulty of moving represents a nightmare,” wrote another, asking the Council to only rezone the section north of the highway and defer rezoning the trailer park for several years. “Please consider my suggestion, and let us die in our own homes.”