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Colwood to smooth way for development

Dec 09 2011

Colwood's new city council wants to reduce barriers for developers looking to settle in one of the West Shore's most rapidly growing communities.

The newly elected politicians held their inaugural meeting this week after what some described as a nasty election campaign that featured aggressive attacks on city staff and the previous council.

Former councillor Brian Tucknott lost to Carol Hamilton in the mayoral race Nov. 19. He ran a slate with four other candidates, who mounted an aggressive campaign that accused the previous council of spending too much money while keeping many decisions out of the public domain.

Some of the new councillors took exception to the accusations, but they quickly put it all behind them as they watched the results roll in on election night.

Teresa Harvey was the only member of the Tucknott slate to get elected. She was joined by newcomers Rob Martin and Shari Lukens. Incumbents Judith Cullington, Gordie Logan and Cynthia Day returned to their seats.

Logan said there is no bad blood with anyone on council, including Harvey.

"I think she's here for the right reasons and we will all work together," Logan said.

Hamilton said her council is made up of strongminded individuals.

"I think we got some really strong opinions coming from our council members, but what will be there is the ability to work for the greater good, rather than butting heads in the decision making process," she said.

Hamilton would like her council to support existing projects that represent significant economic investment.

One of the most immediate projects is the new Colwood High School. The previous city council partnered with Sooke school district to design a multimillion-dollar performing arts centre in conjunction with the new school planned for the 172hectare Royal Bay property.

Councillors will meet the school district next week to start the design process.

"This is huge for our community," Hamilton said. "Given the location and the area, I think, in time, it will be a highly used facility. The more we pack into it the better."

Hamilton said there has been an accepted offer on the land surrounding the new school site, but few details have come from owner Lehigh Heidelberg. Company representatives have declined to comment on the possible sale.

"It will be interesting to see if they [possible new owners] have a plan or an idea that they look to float around," Hamilton said.

The first phase of the Colwood Corners redevelopment should be complete by 2015. This portion of the mammoth project will cost more than $250 million and include 800,000 square feet of residential and commercial space.

The site will be the new headquarters for the developer League Assets Corp. and will include a 26-storey residential tower, a sixstorey building of both retail and office space, plus a new London Drugs building, with four storeys of residential above.

The project will overhaul the corner of Goldstream Avenue and Sooke Road. Ensuring that it rolls out smoothly and efficiently will be an important goal for the council, said Martin, a political newcomer.

"I want to see that this project proceeds and that the developers get the support they need," he said.

There is room to improve the turnaround for new building permits, other newcomers said. Lukens has heard stories from developers about permits taking several months or, as in one instance, almost a year.

"I want to meet with [engineering and planning] staff and identify what the issue is and prioritize how we attack it," she said.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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