Council likes density at Four Corners, but some residents disagree

Townhouse development will put 14 units at 1032, 1042, and 1052 of Cloverdale Ave, near Four Corners village

Looking east at a proposed 14-unit townhouse development at 1052 Cloverdale Ave.

Looking east at a proposed 14-unit townhouse development at 1052 Cloverdale Ave.

A new townhouse development on Cloverdale Avenue that promises to reduce car use, raise density and revitalize the area now awaits a formal public hearing after it received a mix of support and criticism from council members and the public.

Plans council heard Monday call for a townhouse development of 14 units spread across 1032, 1042, and 1052 Cloverdale Avenue, just west of the designated Four Corners village centre of Cook and Quadra. The lots are currently zoned single residential.

If initial reactions to the proposal reveal anything, the project in its current form faces no small measure of opposition, even as it received praise for its overall direction.

While council approved the public hearing by a vote of 7-1 with only Coun. Vicki Sanders opposed (and Coun. Vic Derman absent), several expressed concerns about parking, traffic and density.

Under the plan, each unit features a one-car garage and all but three would have an exterior parking space.

Tim Rodier of Outline Home Design said the project aims to reduce car use, noting its proximity to transit and walkability to nearby businesses.

“This is not a car dependent project,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be. It is not meant to be.”

Several councillors including Coun. Susan Brice expressed support for the idea of reducing car use in the future, but wondered whether it could be realized. Society, she said, is still a decade away from seeing car use drop.

Brice said the project had the “right idea” in trying to raise density, but also called it “tight.”

Coun. Judy Brownoff also thought the project was trying to put “too many units” on the site  while Sanders called it “too big, too close,” in pointing to a lack of play and gardening space.

John Schmuck, past president of the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association, said the project promises to revitalize an area that has seen a spade of businesses close in recent years. Increasing density, he says, promises to bring more businesses back to the neighbourhood.

Overall, he says, his association has no major objections to the proposal, provided that neighbourhood concerns about parking, traffic and neighbourhood character are addressed.

Perhaps the most unequivocal defence of the project came from Coun. Fred Haynes, who said the project would reduce car use and increase the supply of affordable housing.

“There is a great deal to like about this application,” he said.

Saanich, Haynes said, needs to take “a leap of faith” when it comes to encouraging density, adding that he looks forward to a “rigorous public hearing.”

It is not clear yet when this hearing will take place. Rodier said in a later interview that he is currently looking into the issues raised Monday. He is “hesitant” to increase the number of parking spaces by reducing living spaces.

“There may be a solution to the traffic problem that lies outside of our property,” he said.

Council’s decision to schedule a public hearing came after hearing from about a dozen residents in the area.

Nick Stepushyn said the project would undermine the character of the neighbourhood currently dominated by single family homes, a point also raised by Craig Nash, who pointed to the local area plan for the Saanich Core. It calls on council to “(maintain) single family dwellings as the principal form of development outside the Cloverdale triangle” and “(consider) infill housing only where the scale and massing is appropriate and the environmental, social, and traffic impacts would be within acceptable neighbourhood limits.”

Official district documents note that the proposed townhouse development would be “consistent with the intent of the Official Community Community” for the Quadra Street/Cook Street intersection area, noting that “locating multi-family housing near existing businesses and services in the ‘Village Centre’ would make walking, cycling and transit more attractive options.”