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RCMP expansion includes plan to take over neighbour's houses for parking lot

Westshore RCMP says its Langford facility is at capacity. (📸 Zoë Ducklow)

With a ratio of one cop to every 827 people, the Westshore RCMP is expecting to almost double its staff to 281 full time positions over the next 20 years, matching projected population growth in the area.

The regional police force wants to replace one of its two current buildings off Veterans Memorial Parkway in Langford, and extend the parking lot onto four neighbouring residential properties. As the force grows into the capacity of the new building, it plans to lease it for five, 10, and 15 year terms to complementary tenants.

Langford, Colwood, and View Royal share ownership of the RCMP building, at a ratio set by their relative population size and property values. That share also determines how much of the expansion costs they’ll cover: Langford has 60%, Colwood 24%, and View Royal 15%.

The draft expansion plan, compiled by real estate consulting company Colliers at the behest of the former mayors of Langford, Colwood, and View Royal, calculated a budget of $82 million (give or take 25%) to upgrade the current space to fit future needs. Three possible new locations were identified, with a total cost of $92 million, but the RCMP prefers its current spot because it’s close to the highway, and central to the communities it services.

A neighbouring house that could be sacrificed for a parking lot. (📸 Zoë Ducklow)

Concerns from newly elected councils about inherited plans

Councillors in Colwood had concerns about that process; as Coun. Ian Ward put it, “Transparency in Langford hasn't always been perceived as walking hand-in-hand.”

His issue was with the fact that communication was been primarily between the three mayors—“three now deposed mayors”—and information wasn’t public or shared with council. “That led me to suspect that there could be some flaws in the process, or that the outcome was predetermined before council or Colliers was engaged,” he said.

Coun. Kim Jordison also questioned the process, saying, “I hear that you're outgrowing the space, but I don't see a professional condition assessment of the building that's been done that deems it end of life, or that there's been other options looked at.”

RCMP superintendent Todd Preston said this report was very preliminary. The RCMP detachment is asking for funding for the next phase, a full expansion study, which will go to public tender.

“We've got a detachment right now that’s busting at the seams. We can't [provide needed service] if we don't have proper interview rooms, proper spacing for special victims units, for sex assaults, for child porn, for drug investigations,” Preston told Colwood council.

“We are at capacity right now. We told mayors and CAO three and a half years ago that we would be out of space within three to five years, and we are there now.”

After delaying its decision until Preston could attend to answer questions, Colwood council voted unanimously to spend $291,720 on the expansion study.

Municipalities will need to find millions to complete expansion

Earlier this month View Royal also agreed to contribute its portion—$186,720, or 15.56% of the total $1.2 million budget for the study. As Colwood staff put it, this next phase of exploration will give councils enough information to make a decision on whether to fund the actual expansion. That step will likely require each municipality to take loans.

Langford council is expected to vote on the ask at an upcoming meeting. Its portion of the expansion study will be $721,560.

Metchosin will have to pay more for its policing needs since it crossed the 5,000 person population threshold in the last census, but it won’t be a building owner, so isn’t part of this decision. The Westshore RCMP serves Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Metchosin, and the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.