If consensus created the most viable results, big changes would come to Shelbourne Street.
Instead of a narrow four-lane road, with pencil-thin sidewalks on either side, most Saanichites would prefer four lanes for vehicles plus wide sidewalks, bike lanes and grassed buffers.
The widened road – increasing from its current 20-metre right of way to 26 metres – would require Saanich to make big investments, buying street frontage along kilometres of Shelbourne to make that dream a reality.
But until it can do that, a friendlier corridor will remain a dream deferred for the foreseeable future.
“We’re not going to be able to satisfy everything that everybody wants,” said Harold Stanley, a Saanich planner who’s taken the lead on the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan. “The crux of the whole thing is trying to incorporate the different forms of transportation into the narrow right of way.”
The plan has set out to create a 25-year vision for the four-kilometre stretch of Shelbourne Street north of Hillside Centre.
Of the 334 people who gave feedback online and at open houses late last year, the majority supported keeping the street four lanes for vehicles, with the majority preferring a wider road for bikes and better sidewalks.
To widen the street, Saanich would need to purchase land from property owners along Shelbourne, which could take years. It would be a willing seller, willing buyer process.
“When we identify several homes that we would like to convert to either park or road, we don’t go down the street and simply force the purchase,” Mayor Frank Leonard said in an interview earlier this year. “We approach the homeowners and say ‘If and when you’d like to sell, we’d like to be the first in line.’”
In the meantime, Stanley points to positive feedback on creating a north-south “greenway” using designated side streets as a cycling thoroughfare, similar to what is seen in Vancouver.
Also covered in the Action Plan survey are questions about building height and development setbacks in the targeted urban centres. Saanich aims to create a dense urban core at Feltham Road, McKenzie Avenue, Cedar Hill X Road, and near Hillside Centre.
“We’re trying to densify the villages and centres in the valley,” Stanley said. “People would hopefully spend more time in each centre with regards to getting everyday goods and services, as well as employment opportunities. Density cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions – people don’t have to travel far, so we’re trying to incorporate transit, cycling, walking into the valley as much as possible.”
Stakeholder meetings on the Action Plan are continuing, but Stanley hopes to have a completed draft plan presented to the public in the coming months. Once more feedback is received, he hopes the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan will be before Saanich council in the late fall.
“We heard quite loud and clear when we started off on this plan that the status quo is not working (along Shelbourne Street),” Stanley said. “If we don’t do something to fix it now, the issues and problems – bad architecture, traffic issues, the lack of infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians – will probably get worse. We have to get something done now to address all these issues.”
To see the survey or to view the plan so far, visit saanich.ca/business/actionplan/shelbourne.html.