A proposal for a six-storey, 105-unit apartment building in Esquimalt’s West Bay neighbourhood had most council members weighing the pros and cons before they ultimately moved it along.
Following a Nov. 15 public hearing), council gave third reading to Wexford Developments’ proposal for the rezoning of three West Bay Terrace and two Dunsmuir Road properties.
In a response to feedback, the developer previously reduced the number of units from 125 to 105 and moved from a five-storey design to a thinner six-storey one that would have the top two floors set back. The thinner design would allow for retaining more trees on the site, adding landscaping and improving the streetscape on the site with features like a new sidewalk.
Residents, many from the West Bay area, were mainly concerned about the building’s height and its impact on sunlight. Some were disapointed they haven’t seen a shadow impact study.
Esquimalt staff were concerned about the application not including any affordable housing units. At Monday’s meeting, Wexford’s Laura Fader said staff hadn’t raised the request for affordable housing after about a year of correspondence. The developer told council that, especially after dropping the original number of units, including affordable spots would essentially kill the project’s feasibility.
Residents also raised concerns over how the apartment would impact parking in the area. The five existing properties currently house 20 units, according to Esquimalt staff. The proposal includes a parking garage with 87 electrified stalls, with seven reserved for visitors.
Wexford boasted how their project focuses on promoting and enhancing active and public transportation and said that will help reduce vehicle use. The development includes a free year of Modo Car Share and a one-year bus pass for residents, an internal bike-share program, and about 130 bike parking spots. The developer will also give the building’s residents up t0 $500 for an electric bike or up to $250 for a regular bicycle.
Even councillors in favour of moving the project forward– as proposed – admitted they were kind of split, but said there were enough pros to sway their decision.
Mayor Barb Desjardins said the project taking advantage of the area’s active and public transportation would help alleviate some of the parking concerns and fits with the town’s goals.
“If we’re going to affect climate change, we have to continue to push that kind of transportation, and here is a good site for that,” the mayor said.
“By offering the alternatives, we can try to encourage people to change their habits.”
It’s not yet known when council will consider adopting the rezoning requirements.
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