The Town of View Royal will officially have two more councillors after this fall’s municipal election, after council endorsed a bylaw to expand council to seven members.
The bylaw received three readings and was narrowly approved in a 3-2 vote at Tuesday night’s council meeting, with Couns. John Rogers and Ron Mattson opposed.
“Speaking only for myself, I have always felt it was the right move,” Mayor David Screech told Black Press Media. “I think we need more opinions at the table and more varied opinions. The town has grown a massive amount since incorporation and of course will continue to grow.”
View Royal has more than doubled in size to just under 12,000 residents since the town was incorporated in December 1988, making it the largest municipality with a five-person council, to Screech’s knowledge.
Retrofits to council chambers to accommodate the extra positions are estimated at $50,000 while annual costs for two new councillor salaries and their expense allowances would be approximately $44,000.
Looking at other councils across Greater Victoria, Saanich, the largest municipality by area and also population-wise with 114,148 residents, and Victoria, with a population of 85,792, each have nine-member councils. Highlands, the smallest in population with just over 2,000 has seven on council while Metchosin, with roughly 4,700 residents, is the only other municipality with five council members.
Screech hopes the addition of two more councillors will help make council less polarized on contentious issues, but above all he hopes a diverse range of quality candidates will run for election this October so fresh faces and ideas can be brought to council.
“Let’s face it, three of the current members of council, including myself, have been there for over 20 years,” he said. “Injecting some new voices and some new blood into the mix can only be a good thing.”
While council ultimately endorsed the expansion, it remained the subject of spirited debate right up to the final vote, with residents providing plenty of input both for and against the move.
Residents John and Seona Stephen wrote that they felt council was already doing a good job at its current size, and the added costs of increasing its size were not worth it.
Other residents, such as Rick Baker, supported the expansion as being reflective of the community’s growing population.
“Having a council that reflects the diversity and demographics of our Town is important,” Baker wrote. “Creating the opportunity to bring new and divergent views to the table is important. It lends itself to better decision making, a more inclusive decision-making process and decisions that are based on and supported by a broad cross-section of our residents.”
– With files from Bailey Moreton