Stop the re-zoning of the 'old' Royal Oak Golf Course

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A HEARTFELT MESSAGE

As a life long resident of Saanich, specifically Royal Oak/Beaver Lake, I am saddened and shocked to hear that a group of Developers have purchased the 27 acre Royal Oak Golf Course, with plans to develop the area into a multi faceted housing development of townhomes, condos and single family homes. I'm confident these Developers did not purchase this land without some assurances in place that they would be able to remove it from it present zoning of ALR  and P4, with a small area having run-off into Colquitz Creek a Salmon spawning ground.

The impact of this, on our once rural area will be devastating. The area is developing at an unbelievable rate. I understand the need for housing is great, our 40 yr. old son and 20 yr. old grand daughter (the 4th generation to attend school at Royal Oak) still live with us, due to housing shortages. But, even they are vehemently opposed to this would be development.  There is already enough development going on in the area, more homes, more subdivisions. Old Pipeline Road; where we meandered along the water pipeline itself as school children heading to Beaver Lake for our annual end of year school picnic,  is at present being developed with more homes and what looks to be a subdivision. All this surrounding what could be, a human and wildlife sanctuary. This 27 acre green space should be left undeveloped, cherished for the use of this and future generations to enjoy.

 Animals and bird life also reproduce and as such the next generations need to spread and have territory, just as much as humans. Since the close of the Golf Course many species have been returning to this parcel of land (Deer, Raccoons, Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, Peregrine Falcons,  Great Blue Herons, Pileated & Downy Woodpeckers, Red breasted Sapsuckers and many small migrating birds enjoying the grass seeds not available to them before ) there are multiple families of quail using the hedgerows of blackberries as safe havens to raise their young and many, many other species of birds and waterfowl) to the enjoyment of many. If developed how will the naysayers feel when the deer have no where else to go and start eating all their garden plantings? Then may follow the cougars and other predators to find their prey and end up attacking pets. They'll have the Conservation Officers brought in to shoot the offending animal, though it was only doing what was natural for it, to follow it's prey. Leave room for the movement and growth of wildlife.

There are some stands of Garry Oak on the property with wild Camus and Fawn Lilies being spotted. If this area is saved from development perhaps these stands could be recovered and enhanced, adding to the beauty and value of the land and benefiting the many plants and animals that rely on Garry Oak habitat (*In British Columbia, Garry oak surrounded by highly developed areas contain fewer species of birds than patches in less developed areas. Breeding populations of birds associated with oak and grassland habitats have declined in the urban Victoria area since the 1970’s. Also see link -http://www.goert.ca/about/what_remains.php I understand there is even a group of endangered turtles located in one of the ponds located on the property. Safe, easy to use paths for Seniors,  area walkers, families with small children (using a child's imagination to explore the safe flora and fauna of this open area) along with dog walkers and many more, have already started to think of this wonderful parcel of land as park; a safe and inviting area. 

My Great Grandfather opened his Blacksmith shop at Royal Oak corners shortly after 1911, when he, his wife, daughter and son-in-law (the Head Gardener for our Parliament Buildings until 1950) emigrated from England. The G.Grandparents lived on Cherry Tree Bend, the house is no longer there. My father was born on a farm on Haliburton Rd., this is now a subdivision. I grew up on Claremont Ave. (the grandparents and my Dad's brother lived on Santa Clara Ave.), thankfully not too developed yet, but Piedmont Rd area is growing fast. The poultry farm on Claremont Ave. where I worked as a teenager is also now a subdivision. Pheasants' (although an introduced species) once roamed and raised their young among some of the open fields of the area, they are now extinct. As children we often explored the area at the end of Wesley Rd., where the water tower, then reservoir were located. A large forested area with lovely rock outcroppings covered in Fawn Lilies, Trillium, Laddyslippers and Shooting Stars, now subdivision, I don't think I've seen a Shooting Star nor Ladyslipper since. As teenagers we skated on Rithet's Bog (thankfully saved) in winter, surrounded by acres of farm land, now all subdivisions, along with a Shopping Centre. We explored the forests along Del Monte Ave., peeking looks over the edges of tall stumps, covered with moss and lichen, imagining, surely this must be what the islands of the South Pacific looked like substituting the forest for the water that would surround the Islands, in our childish imaginations; forest that is now turned into homes. We played within the forest surrounding this once farm, cum golf course area. I barely recognize any of these areas anymore.

Surely property values will go down for homeowners surrounding these 27 acres. If housing is allowed I don't imagine there would be much interest from anyone wanting to purchase an existing home nearby. The noise and disruption generated by an on going development of that size would be immeasurable and, who would want to purchase and live near it. The existing home owners will be in a hell all their own, as the development could take years. We have seen first hand too, what happens to land where developers don't get their way, examples being the feed lot that had so much controversy on Blenkinsop Rd. and the farm bordering between Watkiss Way and Burnside Rd. W. All the trees removed, nothing but barren land there at the moment, what a loss.
The impact of a multi family development on the surrounding roads and the Pat Bay Hwy would be significant as well. The congestion on the Pat Bay (Hwy 17), especially between Royal Oak and Sayward is already growing rapidly, especially between 2:30 and 5:30pm. Driving between Royal Oak and Sydney is exhaustive at most times of the day. Have you traveled Wilkinson/Helmcken Rd. lately. Again, over the last 10 years this is a appalling bottleneck in both directions, at certain times. It was once considered 'the back way' between West Saanich and Hwy 1. The lights at Elk Lake Dr. & Royal Oak Dr. are already becoming a congested and will only get worse with the developments already in the works nearby.

Do we want the Royal Oak area to become like Stu Young's Langford? More people and cars than the infrastructure can possibly handle, devoid of all character and wildlife? Please, enough is enough and I implore powers that be to NOT ALLOW this last large parcel of land to be removed from it's present zoning, to be held in perpetuity as an area of enjoyment by humans and animals alike.

Without the public's support, this area will surely be built into a large scale housing development. We will all be so much the poorer for it. I ask you to speak up, speak out, to Saanich Council, the Captial Regional District, your MLA, SIGN THE PETITION, to save this area.

 Donna Cino

 * Towards a Recovery Strategy
for Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems
in Canada:
Ecological Assessment and Literature Review
Marilyn A. Fuchs, R.P. Bio.
Foxtree Ecological Consulting 2001

 



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