Wednesday July 20, 2022 | VIEW ROYAL, BC [Updated 5:12 pm]
Campaign Season Analysis by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
The last one but a productive one. “This will definitely be my last term,” says Town of View Royal Mayor David Screech as he ramps up his campaign for the October 2022 election.
Screech has been on View Royal council since 2002; he served as a Councillor from 2002 until 2014 and was elected as View Royal’s fourth mayor on November 15, 2014.
In that 20-year run on council he has been part of guiding a growing municipality that is essentially ‘border bound’ between Colwood and Langford on the west and Victoria and Esquimalt to the south and east. There is still a small town feel, of which Screech is proud and pleased.
Like the stability of a ‘landlocked’ town, the mayor himself has offered a tone of stability over the past two decades, shepherding the town through thoughtful and steady growth.
No one is contesting his 2022 mayoral run so far.
Presently Mayor David Screech serves as chair to the Finance & Administration Committee for the Town’s Committee of the Whole. He is the Town’s representative to the Capital Region District’s Board, Hospital Board, and Housing Trust Fund Commission, and also serves as the Town’s liaison to the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications Inc. (CREST), the Police Building Liaison Committee, and the South Island Prosperity Association.
The View Royal population is about 12,000. A recent resident satisfaction survey showed over 90% of residents being “satisfied or very satisfied” with how things are done in the municipality; about 400 people were phoned directly (by a third-party agency) for their opinions and input.
Screech thinks this level of satisfaction has to do with a range of housing options and retention of property values, ample parks and greenspace, good maintenance of the town’s physical infrastructure, and a thoughtful approach to urban development together with a cooperative approach to availing themselves of shared resources with neighbouring municipalities.
The Town of View Royal sees itself as a cooperative player within the Greater Victoria area. Screech sits on the Capital Regional District (CRD) board. But he particularly feels an inter-municipal affinity to the west shore — an assembly of municipal interests not formally defined but which works to helps things run smoothly for those who collaborate. That would include the cooperative ownership of the West Shore Parks & Recreation facilities and the mutual support agreements between fire departments.
The West Shore Chamber of Commerce does somewhat formalize affiliation between five municipalities of the CRD’s 13: Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Metchosin and Highlands. That’s more for the expediency of the interplay of businesses in the region but it can have municipal spin-off benefits, especially in election season.
For any municipality in the growing Greater Victoria and south Vancouver Island region, housing is top of mind. People need places to live (apart from considerations of property as an investment tool), and as housing prices and rent levels increase it’s an increasingly difficult challenge to offer places for people to call home.
Today Screech expressed with concern that the average single-family home assessed value in View Royal is over $1 million. This spring, housing sale prices have slumped at bit (from April through to June) throughout the region due to rising interest rates. The average sale price of single family homes is still comfortably over $1 million in View Royal: $1,418,875 (April 2022), $1,139,143 (May 2022), $1,082,947 (June 2022). Townhomes sold on average in View Royal at $819,732 in June 2022, and condos on average at $567,328.
A variety of housing types is needed, as well as rental opportunities, the mayor says.
In View Royal there are two rental buildings coming on stream in the future (336 units at 9 Erskine Lane by WestUrban Developments and 234 units at Aspire by Boardwalk REIT at Helmcken and Burnside near Victoria General Hospital). “But there isn’t a lot of bare land left,” says Screech.
Last night at Council a motion was approved to try and ensure that more rentals in View Royal are for long term instead of used as vacation rentals (e.g. through AirBNB, VRBO, or other rental platforms that offer commercial short-term, overnight accommodation located in a portion of or within the entirety of a dwelling unit); this does *not* impact the continued operations of bed-and-breakfast establishments.
Compared to the robust expansive residential and commercial growth in nearby Langford (population now topping 50,000) and Colwood (population now about 16,000), View Royal finds itself having to work with a bit more focus.
Screech is proud that View Royal was the first municipality within the CRD to legalize secondary suites. “We never got credit for it,” he told Island Social Trends today. Several years ago there was deliberate attention paid by View Royal to the needs of a growing community, and a mix of housing options was put to policy and paper.
Secondary suites contribute to the community by providing accessible rental housing, lowering property ownership costs and providing in-law residences for family members who need at-home care. In light of this, View Royal permits secondary suites in some residential and rural zones.
Why run again?
Screech will celebrate his 62nd birthday this fall. He’s been View Royal’s mayor for eight years so far and he’s been running a full-time retail furniture business all that time as well (with the help of his wife and son, he notes). “Another four years is a commitment” that he’s willing to make, he said today.
What’s still to be done in another term leading View Royal from the mayor’s seat? If he is re-elected, Screech wants to help guide the now-expanded council footprint (until now there have been four councillors plus mayor, but starting with the 2022 election there will be six councillors plus mayor). Councillors know their files well and go out into the community to see projects and developments. “They take the time to understand the implications of what their decisions are,” Screech says confidently, as this implies his leadership impact.
Screech at this point doesn’t expect any other contenders for the mayor’s job. And he anticipates that all the current councillors will run as incumbents this fall (current View Royal Councillors are Damian Kowalewich, Gery Lemon, Ron Mattson, and John Rogers). During the public process of debating council expansion in the past year, Screech said he felt a larger council would perhaps offer more diversity of background and interests for the community. He sees that as appropriate for a growing urban community. And with more votes around the council table it might be easier to break any voting deadlocks.
Challenges as the town grows:
There will be challenges as the town grows, including expanding the number of staff that are needed to run a growing municipality. Presently there are about 40 staff, including some at the fire department and at the West Shore RCMP detachment.
“That’s a very streamlined organization,” says Screech with regard to the staff complement to run the town. He notes that the current Chief Administrative Officer will be retiring in the next four-year term of council; that will be a big decision for a new council to make, to hire a new top-staffer who would need to align with the municipality’s values.
Screech wants to see that the top issues of housing and transportation are moving forward in the town’s directions established over the past 20 years, but responsively to new challenges. He hopes that the Island Rail Corridor will not be lost (there is a March 2023 deadline for the land under that rail line to still be available to the municipalities that it runs through); the CRD Board heard a presentation about the Island Rail Corridor at their July 13, 2022 meeting.
Screech took part in a BC Transit event to promote the Westshore/downtown bus transit service, in June 2021. Bus service along Island Highway (from Langford through Colwood and through View Royal to downtown) will be improved over the years ahead.
“For a new council the challenges will be housing and growth while protecting the values of View Royal moving forward,” says View Royal’s mayor.
And what Screech calls “a complete lack of social services on the west shore” is something he wants to dive into with neighbouring municipalities in the next four years. There needs to be a shelter for people who find themselves homeless, with a social safety net to support that. “It’s one of the major issues,” he told Island Social Trends today. The CRD is aligned with the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness using a Housing First approach. This involves providing individuals who are chronically or episodically homeless and living on the streets, in parks or homeless shelters with the choice to access long-term, tenant-based housing. Once housed, individuals are given the opportunity to receive support services that assist in their recovery and integration into the community.
“We have all the right factors, it’s a really pleasant place to live,” the long-term View Royal mayor says about his municipality.
View Royal offers a lot of green space, parks and attention to environmental protection, he itemizes.”We are lucky to have West Shore Parks and Recreation,” he says of the mutually-owned and operated recreational facility on Island Highway; it is located within Colwood but the ownership and management is shared by Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Highlands and Metchosin through the West Shore Parks & Recreation Society (each municipality contributes, through tax requisition, toward the operation of the parks and recreation facilities).
Most of the View Royal residents have lived there a long time, but expansion is happening. That hopefully includes more young families, says Screech, who worries about the population becoming too top-heavy in terms of population age. An aging population requires more services. In his time as mayor he’s seen competing interests for services — youth and seniors want and need different things — such as uses of park space. There is already one enormous off-leash park off View Royal Park that is a go-to destination for the region.
Emergency preparedness in View Royal is handled by an emergency preparedness officer with a team of volunteers. At last night’s council meeting there was approval for municipal staff to apply for a Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) grant that would provide $30,000 for heat mapping (as a way of planning for mitigation of extreme heat risk). After the heat dome experience of June 2021 “we heard loud and clear” that preparation for heat emergencies was something that View Royal needs to do.
Attentive management of the boulevards, parks and streets is a point of pride for Screech. That service is contracted out to Victoria Contracting. By comparison, the larger Colwood municipality has its own public works department.
There is a shortage of doctors in the area, but that’s true of Greater Victoria as a whole as well as across BC. In January this year, View Royal Mayor David Screech said it was “terrible news” that the Eagle Ridge Medical Clinic would be closing.
Long-range view combined with action:
Community growth management requires a long historical lens as well as a forward-thinking one, underpinned with a desire to take action and move things along. David Screech seems well equipped to bridge this phase of change and growth in the municipal that he has clearly devoted a good chunk of his professional life to.
On top of it all, he rarely seems flustered or dismayed, but keeps his eye on the ball for opportunities, aiming to be both thoughtful and creative in his approaches to solutions. That’s also with a strong but flexible hand on the management of council and staff.
The upcoming municipal election is on October 15, 2022. The official Elections BC campaign period began this week on July 18.
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Aerial moth spraying in View Royal, Lake Cowichan, Nanaimo (May 16, 2022)
Waste Management: sorting out View Royal garbage pickup (January 20, 2022)
View Royal: snow got in the way of garbage pickup (January 19, 2022)
Photo contest winner: Hello View Royal! (August 3, 2021)