Are Greater Victoria municipalities using COVID pandemic to push through projects?

Are Greater Victoria municipalities using COVID pandemic to push through projects?
WatchThere's growing concern Greater Victoria municipalities may be using the COVID pandemic to push through projects. Tess van Straaten reports.

Susan Simmons comes to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park every day and she says people are doing a great job of physically distancing.

Even in the areas where it’s tight, people tend to pull away and they’ll pull off to the side to give you space,” Simmons says.

So Simmons was shocked to hear the city might close the popular park to all vehicle traffic for the foreseeable future because of COVID.

“I’m inclined to believe they’re promoting their own agenda and using COVID as a way to do that,” she says.

But Victoria’s mayor says there’s no hidden agenda.

Lisa Helps says a motion to implement a pedestrian-only approach for the summer is to keep people safe.

“Beacon Hill Park was closed the last three weekends to all vehicle traffic and we didn’t get one complaint,” Helps says. “We need to do everything we can to flatten the curve and to create those safe physical distances.”

Victoria’s not the only municipality accused of trying to push things through during the pandemic.

Langford has waived public hearings for projects that have had first reading and comply with the official community plan.

“On Monday night, we had a number of re-zonings we waived the public hearings for but we had public participation and people could call in and we had about 49 callers,” says Langford city councillor and planning committee chair Denise Blackwell.

Projects in Langford that don’t conform will still go to in-person public hearings, to be chaired by Blackwell.

She says safe distancing measures and safety protocols will be in place for any hearings at Langford Municipal Hall.

Victoria’s moving to virtual public hearings so land use applications aren’t delayed.

As for Beacon Hill Park, if Victoria council approves the pilot project, the parking lot by the petting zoo will stay open so people with mobility challenges aren’t adversely affected.

Council with also gather public feedback on whether to make it a pedestrian-only park permanently.

Read More about the motion to ban vehicles in Beacon Hill Park

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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