If certain steps aren’t taken soon, the Shelbourne Street improvements in the new Shelbourne Valley Action Plan could end up as another wait-and-see project.
The 30-year vision put forward in the elaborate 120 page document includes a long list of improvements to the Shelbourne corridor, starting with the street itself. But a long-established policy of not expropriating land to expand sidewalks and public space means a few long-term homeowners can stall even basic infrastructure improvements.
“Without expropriation we need new incentives for residents,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “For example, Saanich is waiting to install cycling lanes and sidewalks on Quadra Street from Chatterton to Lily, but is waiting on a (single) holdout landowner.”
Following the action plan review at a June 9 committee meeting, council asked for a report on the feasibility of fast-tracking cycling and sidewalk improvements along Shelbourne Street.
“The ultimate goal is to pave a cycling lane all the way (from North Dairy Road to Feltham Avenue) but it’s difficult to achieve in the interim with various constraints to the amount of space available,” said Cameron Scott, community manager with Saanich’s planning department.
“In an ideal world we get a wider right of way for some of the more constrained sections.”
A planned separated cycling lane from North Dairy Road to Pear Street will add some improvement. The lane would end at Pear Street, but it would start again on the north side of McKenzie Avenue from Blair Avenue north of Feltham Road.
Cyclists usually take the risky Shelbourne stretch rather than detouring to the more hilly Cedar Hill and Richmond roads, Brownoff said.
“Don’t expect cyclists to get off Shelbourne,” she said. “Cyclists are just like drivers, they don’t want to be put off on a hilly side road. Shelbourne is flat, and it has the stores and coffee shops people want to use.”
But the action plan still faces difficult implementation with Saanich’s unwillingness to expropriate land from private homeowners.
Brownoff said it may be time to give incentives to private homeowners for the roughly one to two metres for right-of-way usage of their land, at least along Shelbourne Street.
Mayor Frank Leonard has excused himself from the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan proceedings, as he owns land along the proposed development route.
Instead Coun. Susan Brice chaired last week’s meeting as acting mayor.
Brice said the idea of whittling Shelbourne down to two lanes was considered, which has been a successful way of creating pedestrian friendly urban centres in other municipalities.
“One of the reasons we’ve wanted to keep two lanes of traffic on each side of Shelbourne is so in the future we can always dedicate a lane to bus only, or bus only at certain times, similar to Douglas Street downtown,” Brice said. “We also retain the potential for thinking further into the future with light rail,” Brice said.
Light rail is part of the Victoria Region Transit Future Plan, centred at Uptown. One of the lines would run along McKenzie through the Shelbourne corridor to the University of Victoria.
See details of the plan here.