A development proposal for a six-storey, 87-unit residential rental and commercial building at Shelbourne Street and McRae Avenue is coming under fire from area residents, as Saanich council prepares to discuss the project on Monday (May 9).
The Abstract Developments project at 1641-1647 McRae Ave. and 3226 Shelbourne St. is the latest redevelopment in the area to be considered. Not only are the six storeys two more than called for in the block under the district’s Shelbourne Valley Action Plan, but some say the proposed height doesn’t fit with the neighbourhood – it would back onto single-family homes on nearby Browning Street.
“We understand there is a housing crisis and we want to be part of the solution,” said Lisa Timmons, president of the Camosun Community Association. But the residents group and many people it surveyed on the project believe six storeys is just too much, especially given the designation in the plan for four, she added.
The rezoning requested is to change from single family dwelling (RS-6) to a new zone labelled Neighbourhood Mixed Use (C-16), the creation of which is also up for council discussion.
Timmons said the parking variances requested for the proposal are also concerning as they would mean no spaces for visitors rather than the 27 required under existing zoning, and 70 resident spaces, down from the required 131. The proposal calls for four commercial spaces in the parkade – zoning calls for 10 – to be shared with visitors.
One of the stated goals of the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan is to “improve housing choice and affordability.” The plan designates the entire block between McRae and North Dairy Road on the west side of Shelbourne for four-storey apartments. Part of that goal calls for a transition of height and density to be established between apartment buildings on major roads to townhomes adjacent to single family dwellings on residential streets.
Plans for the development show very little buffer between the rear of the building and the backyards it would face in the 3200-block of Browning Street.
Michael Kory, an environmental scientist and college professor and 33-year resident of Browning Street one block over, has general objections to Saanich’s approach to increasing housing options, and questions how the development proposal will benefit the neighbourhood “from an environmental, social and economic standpoint.”
“How is this development filed under the category of environmental sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction?” he asked.
The development’s design does contain a number of aspects designed to limit its environmental impact, such as stormwater capture, energy efficient building design and reduced water usage.
The meeting gets underway at 7 p.m. on Monday.
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