With four lots in Langford surrounding the Trans-Canada Highway now in private hands, nearby residents are worried about what might come next.
Tricia Markle, who grew up in Langford and whose mother still lives on Mill Hill, is part of a group seeking to prevent development on the land, which was recently sold by the province as part of its dissolution of the Provincial Capital Commission.
Markle, a graduate student in Minnesota studying conservation biology, has a personal connection to the property.
“It’s actually the forest I grew up on. I spent a lot of time playing back there and it actually led to me taking a career in biology,” she said.
The four parcels range in size from 2.75 to about 33 hectares and had been listed for sale at between $400,000 and $1.3 million. Three are near the Millstream Road overpass and the fourth is across the highway from West Shore Parkway.
When Markle heard about the province putting up the land for sale, she began rallying neighbours and other local residents to work toward preventing heavy development on these properties.
“(The land) to the best of everybody’s knowledge was supposed to be maintained as a green corridor forever. So it came as a big shock,” she said. “There was a lot of interest in trying to preserve it as much as we could to maintain the integrity of that corridor.”
The objections to developing the land are threefold.
The first is the aesthetic beauty of the area, with forest on either side of the Trans-Canada Highway and many properties backing in to wilderness.
Markle also said studies show green corridors serve as a health benefit to residents, as they filter air pollutants coming from vehicles before they reach neighbourhoods.
Lastly, the area is home to much wildlife, including several species of birds. Some of the lots contain sensitive ecosystems, she said. Maps from Langford’s Official Community Plan confirm some of the areas are at least defined as having “potential habitat and biodiversity values.”
“People really appreciate having all these birds in their backyard and amphibians and all the rest of it,” Markle said. “Once that forest is gone, the birds are going to move off.”
Now the land has been sold, the group’s request of the province to donate the parcel nearest Mill Hill as park space are moot.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said he would have liked to see the land donated to the city for preservation, but as it stands, city council won’t become involved unless the new owners apply for rezoning.
Young is aware of the residents’ concerns and believes any development needs to strike a balance between housing and the natural importance of the area. “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen when we haven’t had an application yet. If somebody comes into Langford and wants to rezone it, you can bet we will be protecting trees in the corridor along the road.”
Trails in the area will be preserved by city easements, he added.
The group plans to ask Langford city council to prevent mass development on the same parcel. It is currently zoned R2 – one- and two-family residential. Anything more than that would require council approval.
Markle wants council to develop a green corridor policy to have a reference point for any potential development on all the parcels of lands.
A petition is in the works for neighbouring residents opposed to development to sign. For information visit Save Langford’s Green Corridor on Facebook.
Markle also encourages people to write to Langford to express their opinions on the issue.