After passionately voicing concerns at a four-hour public hearing, residents around Shelbourne Street and McRae Avenue can still expect to see a six-storey development emerge at the southwest corner of the intersection.
Having heard critiques related to parking, reduced setbacks and what some felt was non-adherence to the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan (SVAP), Saanich council unanimously approved Abstract Developments’ mixed-use, market-ratecondominium building for this mostly single-family home neighbourhood.
The July 5 decision to approve creation of a new C-16 zone (neighbourhood mixed-use) to allow for the 87-unit project followed the recent trend that has seen council approve rezoning for projects that add housing at sites deemed appropriate for increased density and/or height.
Calling the Shelbourne Valley a neighbourhood in transition, Mayor Fred Haynes said the action plan is now several years old and may no longer reflect today’s conditions.
“We don’t have one developer coming forward who feels they can develop a project at four floors,” he said, echoing a comment heard at a previous meeting about the cost of construction. He and other council members reminded speakers that SVAP allows for additional height when a project achieves the district’s housing goals.
One resident of nearby Browning Street, acknowledging Saanich’s need for more affordable and family homes, pointed out the proposal’s lack of either housing type. It calls for 22 two-bedroom units, 29 one-bedroom plus den, 29 one-bedroom and seven studios. The caller also pointed to the large parking variance requested (74 spaces compared to the required 131), citing an already overflowing parking situation on McRae and at Browning Park due to area rentals and overflow from nearby McRae’s bistro pub.
The developer’s presentation defended the parking variance by stating its research shows more people are seeking a low-carbon lifestyle. Coun. Zac de Vries later touched on that point in his summation voicing support for the proposal.
The area’s Camosun Community Association also continued to oppose the project. CCA president Lisa Timmons listed the building height and the proposal’s inconsistency with the Shelbourne and official community plans among a list of concerns.
Noting that SVAP calls for varied heights along the corridor, she implied that allowing six storeys here could pave the way for similar or taller buildings elsewhere along Shelbourne. Later during council discussions, staff clarified the new zone is not intended to be site specific and could be utilized for future developments.
Project elements to be secured through a covenant include readiness for future solar hot water heating, electric vehicle charging capabilities for all parking spaces, 50 per cent of the 102 bike parking spaces to have e-bike charging capability and the purchase of a Modo car share vehicle and memberships for all units.
Of the roughly $398,000 in community amenity contributions, $294,000 would go to the Capital Works Reserve Fund for sidewalk upgrades on McRae and about $104,000 to the district’s affordable housing fund.
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