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Saanich woman fighting land expropriation for Shelbourne roadworks

Adrianne Wicks says proposed work on her land could involve removing a tree that would then expose her daughter with seizure disorder to flashing traffic lights
Adrianne Wicks stand with her two daughters, Sierra on the left and Savannah on the Right. Saanich is trying to expropriate the land behind them and may remove the tree to the left.

Adrianne Wicks says that if her daughter sees flashing lights, it can cause seizures.

Wicks and her daughter live on Shelbourne Street, along a stretch that is being rebuilt as part of a major project to fix up the roadway, add bike lanes and replace underground utilities.

The district has recently installed a flashing street light nearby her home as part of this work. Currently, a tree on her property is the only thing that stands between the house and that light. 

This is the view from the window of Wicks' daughter. The trees currently block the view of newly installed flashing traffic lights. Mark Page/Saanich News

But the district wants to use the Expropriation Act to take a portion of her property to build bike lanes and sidewalks. This might involve removing the tree.

The result has been a year-long fight between Wicks and the district. 

The district offered Wicks money for the land, but she would not agree to the terms. She says that if she takes the money she is also being asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to relinquish her ability to challenge the expropriation in the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

“They tried to buy my child’s human rights,” she told Black Press Media.

So far, Wicks says she has spent $8,000 on lawyers, but has run out of money to keep up the legal fight.

The district says it is offering fair market value on standard terms. 

Asked about how Wicks was treated and why she was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, a district spokesperson said those agreements are always a part of negotiated settlements.

"Staff have maintained a polite, professional approach to the process with Ms. Wicks,” The district spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. “Staff have aimed to be responsive and work to a resolution that would not result in an expropriation, which is always the last resort.”

All of this was presented to Saanich council on Monday (June 10) evening. After hearing from Wicks and having a long discussion, councillors opted for a month delay. But they may not be able to stop the expropriation even if they want to.

The 12.3 square metre slice of land in question is at the corner of Knight Street and Shelbourne Street. 

District staff started by just trying to buy the land, and made an offer to Wicks in May of 2023. But Wicks expressed concern about the removal of the tree and wouldn't sell. 

A revised offer was made in February of this year that would potentially — but not definitely — retain the tree.

Wicks rejected that offer in April and the expropriation attempt began. 

The council is technically the “approving authority,” but has already approved expropriation in general as part of the broader Shelbourne road development plan. There is not an option to individually reject it on one property — council is required to give approval. 

At the Monday council meeting, Harley Machielse, Saanich’s engineering director, said that if the land was not taken by the district then a continuous bike lane on Shelbourne would not be possible, and riders would be forced to dismount and walk their bikes as they pass by the property.

He also said the district has worked on solutions that would involve keeping the tree, but that expropriation still “allows for the tree to be removed if need be.”

None of the councillors seemed to be able to definitively say what the right direction was in this situation, with many expressing sympathy for Wicks and her family while also noting the need to complete the Shelbourne Street redevelopment.

Hence the delay to try to encourage staff to once again try to resolve the issue. 

“I think, council, based on what we heard on Monday night, felt that there was an opportunity to hit the pause button," Mayor Dean Murdock said in a Wednesday afternoon (June 12) phone call with Black Press Media. "In the hope that we could achieve a positive resolution with a little more discussion.”

Coun. Judy Brownoff seemed to have some doubts about successful resolution during the discussion at the Monday meeting.

“It’s not that our staff have not been trying to come up with resolution,” she said. “There is obviously animosity between the property owner and us.”

About the Author: Mark Page

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