Stalled interchange project delays development

Huge subdivision plan condemned as destructive to indigenous sites, rare ecosystems
Langford's stalled interchange project may lead to costly delays for the West Shore municipality's next urban sprawl disaster. According to Langford's own bylaws, the South Skirt Mountain development, next door to Bear Mountain Resort, cannot proceed until the interchange is complete.

"The Owners shall not carry out any work on any portion of the Lands, including construction of buildings, installation of works or services, or clearing or grading of land, until Phase 1 of the Trans-Canada Highway Spencer Road Interchange has been completed and is fully in use … " (Source: City of Langford, Bylaw 1209, South Skirt Mountain development bylaw).

Earlier this year, Mayor Stew Young claimed that interchange construction was resuming in February. But there is no sign of movement at the site. The new overpass north of Spencer Road on the TransCanada Highway remains a bridge to nowhere.

Construction on the controversial interchange came to a halt in June 2009, after Bear Mountain Resort owner Len Barrie elected to postpone a $4.79 million payment to the city. It appears Langford has not recovered a dime of the six or seven million dollars it has borrowed for the project to date. The city is drawing on a $9.75 million line of credit from TD Bank, with the understanding that developers will pay the entire cost … eventually.

The South Skirt Mountain developers plan to build more than 2500 condos and apartments covering the hillside above the new interchange and below Bear Mountain Resort, 20 km west of Victoria. Langford Council approved the controversial development in June 2009, after public hearings in which the mayor "bullied, berated and browbeat" residents opposed to the development.

The South Skirt Mountain development approval process is the subject of a petition filed last July in BC Supreme Court. The petition seeks to quash the bylaw for abuse of process and violations of the Local Government Act. The case will be heard in Victoria on March 22, 2010 or later that week. (A detailed media advisory is forthcoming.)

Like Bear Mountain, the South Skirt Mountain Village proposal is widely condemned for encouraging rampant urban sprawl, disregarding indigenous cultural sites, and destroying endangered ecosystems. In 2007 and 2008, opposition to the interchange culminated in a ten-month-long treesit protest, a mock counter-petition, and threats by the mayor to sue individual protestors for the cost of a police raid. The lawsuits did not materialize.

Tax sale includes chunks of Bear Mountain

On Wednesday, September 16, the city of Langford posted its annual list of properties going to the auction block for back taxes. Two Bear Mountain properties are on the list, raising more questions about owner Len Barrie's financial future.

The tax sale announcement comes days after city staff disclosed (in response to an inquiry) that Barrie failed to pay back $4.79 million in construction loans for the Bear Mountain Interchange earlier this year. At least one of the larger lots secured as collateral for the interchange loan has now fallen into tax arrears. (See pdf link, below.)

The city of Langford suspended work on the controversial interchange in June without revealing its loan repayment problems. Now, Langford's mayor and council are dodging questions from the media, with the exception of Acting Mayor Lanny Seaton, who told A News last week that city staff did not advise him about the missing payment.

The two Bear Mountain parcels carry substantially larger debts than the other tax sale properties listed in the public notice. The land described as "Lot A, Plan VIP81958, Sec. 81/82/84, Bear Mountain Parkway" owes over $351,000 in back taxes. That parcel is part of the area designated to pay a special tax to the city to recover the bank loan for the Spencer Rd Interchange.

A second lot, labeled "PID 025-088-106, 2198 Navigators Rise," owes over $75,000 in back taxes. In 2004, the city of Langford issued a development permit for that property to Len Barrie and his company, LGB9.

The Tax Sale auction is set for Monday, September 28, 2009 at 10 am, at Langford City Council Chambers on Goldstream Avenue. Minimum bids must be at least equal to the upset price (tax debt). The current owner has one year from the date of the auction to pay the taxes owing to the city, or the winning bidder assumes ownership. Buyer beware - the city takes no responsibility for the condition of the property or any covenants, liens, and mortgages outstanding.

In the event that no one makes a minimum bid on the property, the municipality takes ownership.

The resort development and interchange construction have fought years of stiff opposition by a large cross-section of the local community, including environmentalists, indigenous people, caving enthusiasts, and anti-sprawl advocates. The massive development on Highway 1 next to Goldstream Provincial Park destroyed two rare karst caves and large swathes of sensitive and endangered garry oak ecosystems. Untold numbers of indigenous graves were unearthed and paved over. Now, construction sites are almost empty of workers and machines, while new investors attempt to start the next phase of development, "South Skirt Mountain Village."

Langford voted in March to apply for federal and provincial infrastructure grants to pay for the "100% developer-funded" interchange project. Observers say the project is not likely to meet the granting agencies' requirements for public funding.

Minutes of Langford council April 2007 (pdf)
Page 67 of the PDF document linked above shows the list of Local Service Area properties taxed for the interchange, and see page 68 for a map of the Local Service Area. The Bear Mountain Parkway property referred to in the city tax notice is marked "27" on the map, and we note that -- due to either a clerical error or some unexplained change to the legal description of the land -- two lots from the property designated as "32" on the map are also included as part of the tax sale parcel.

Hat tip to fans of the Vibrant Victoria discussion forum for posting the pdf link and the scanned image!

Interchange loan payback "postponed" indefinitely

Langford's half-built interchange. Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist.

Len Barrie, owner of Bear Mountain Resort and LGB9 development company, has failed to pay back $4.8 million owed to the City of Langford for Bear Mountain Interchange construction. The city's agreement with Barrie originally called for the loan to be repaid on March 2, 2009.

John Manson, Langford's chief engineer, confirmed on Friday, September 4 that Barrie has not paid back any of the funds Langford borrowed for interchange construction.

Langford has not set a new payment date. Instead, Manson would only say that repayment has been "postponed." In the meantime, Manson said, the city has stopped work on the interchange until construction can begin on the new development north of the freeway, and until the city finds out whether federal and provincial grants will be delivered for the project.

Manson said that around $14 million has been spent on the interchange in total, and the city still hopes for a federal and provincial grant for what the calls "phase two" of the project, consisting of additional cloverleafs and on-ramps linking the TransCanada Highway to Bear Mountain Parkway just west of Spencer Road.

Work Grinds to a Halt, a Full Year Behind Schedule

The Spencer Road Interchange (also known as the Bear Mountain Interchange) was scheduled for completion in May 2009. As of August 2009, it appears abandoned. All the heavy equipment, construction crews, and security personnel were withdrawn from the construction site in early July. Gravel roadbeds and a concrete overpass sit unfinished and empty.

Observers suggest that the city of Langford has already spent its $10 million line of credit from TD Bank, and that no money is forthcoming from the property developers the interchange would serve. Meanwhile, Langford's application for a Building Canada Fund grant for the interchange and the connecting road to Bear Mountain Resort appears to be in limbo. In the Goldstream Gazette, MP Keith Martin complains that he can't get a response from Ottawa about taxpayer funding for the project.

The city's application for federal and provincial grant money is controversial. Critics note that the project was billed as "100% funded by the developers" both in verbal promises to voters and in bylaws adopted by the city.

The most serious charge dogging the grant application is that the funding would amount to a cash gift to the developers, a practice forbidden by the Local Government Act. Any borrowing to cover the municipal portion of the grant would also be subject to a referendum by petition. Langford circumvented this step in 2008 by declaring the interchange a "Local Area Service" that would be paid for by the property owners who stand to benefit. However, the city can't have it both ways. Either the interchange is a Local Area Service and funded by the developers, or it is a public-funded project and the voters can approve or reject the spending in a referendum.

More infrastructure grant awards are expected to be announced in September, 2009. Original construction schedule here.

Six months behind schedule, and more

August 14, 2008 - Construction of the Bear Mountain Interchange is now six months behind schedule, a situation that the consultation team warned could happen when we met with City of Langford staff in August 2007. The delay appears to be the result of problems securing funds for the project without driving the city in unmanageable debt. Mayor Stew Young repeatedly promised that "the developers would pay all of the cost," but the city is now reduced to issuing an unsecured letter of credit, scaling construction back dramatically and postponing portions of the interchange. Below is the original construction schedule, issued in October 2007.

Interchange construction begins

On February 13, work crews began clearing most of the forest in the path of the interchange. Click on images for a closer view.

Many people feel strongly about this interchange project. We are still receiving public comments and opinions about the decision-making process, public consultation, democratic values, environmental issues, and heritage conservation. Please add your voice now. Click the comment link below, or email

Langford Lake Cave as it appeared on Saturday, Feb 16 2008. The cave now has several tons of boulders piled on top of the rebar around the entrance.

Aerial view of the proposed interchange route, with Langford Lake Cave and Spencer's Pond highlighted.

Design of the new highway interchange. Update: Digital images of the construction project are now available on the City of Langford's website. View the PDF document here.

Welcome to an independent consultation on the Bear Mountain Interchange

Please share your thoughts and opinions on wildlife, caves, rare species, hydrology, transportation, housing, First Nations culture, impacts on climate and quality of life.

Comment here, or email us at

Join us at an Open House on Wed, Sept 19 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Juan de Fuca Library meeting room. (If the library union is picketing, the Open House will be rescheduled.)

Thank you!