University of Victoria tried to send a message to Saanich council Tuesday night, but councillors stood their ground and sent an even stronger message back.
With the hopes of convincing council that the benefits of approving a new athletics facility outweighed the concerns over an included seven-level parkade, UVic asked for approval of a project that was nearly identical to what councillors didn’t like back in August.
“All there was (different was) some minor tinkering of the application, but it’s still what it was before … and I have a real problem with that,” said Coun. Paul Gerrard, who in August called the parkade “too big,” and “an ugly building … in the wrong place.”
A six-hour meeting that dragged well into Wednesday morning saw nearly a hundred Cadboro Bay and Gordon Head residents come out to voice their opinion. Dozens of UVic supporters also attended, arguing that the planned Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) is necessary.
“People drive to UVic – it’s not (the university’s) fault,” speaker Chris Spicer said. “The community needs that university and, because people drive, they’ll need that place to park. … It’s so wonderful to see a parking garage, rather than five (new) parking lots around campus.”
The reality is, as Coun. Susan Brice explained, UVic doesn’t need to convince anyone that the athletics portion of the application is beneficial. Instead, UVic needs to focus its attention on neighbours’ concerns that stem from the visual and traffic impacts associated with the parkade.
“This process needs the benefit of an outside facilitator who’ll meet with both sides and lay out the issues,” she said.
A stream of speakers – 31 in total – spoke to council, many of which acknowledged that UVic didn’t do proper community consultation at any point during the planning process. Even after being told by council, in August, to do more thorough consultation, it was felt by many to be rushed, forced and dictatorial.
“The open house was primarily an information meeting,” said Coun. Vic Derman. “My definition of consultation is providing an opportunity to meaningfully change the outcome when appropriate. UVic confused that with an information session and telling people what they’re going to do.”
Councillors unanimously voted to postpone the decision, asking that UVic consult further with neighbours and modify its application.
Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association president Elizabeth Borek said she agrees with Derman’s sentiment regarding consultation, and applauds the postponement decision.
“Meaningful consultation is something we’ve been asking for for quite some time … because that is the key,” she said. “It needs to be modified so it fits the surrounding communities. We need a win-win situation here.”
CARSA will be a 17,685 square-metre complex including a 2,100-seat gym, a four-court field house, an elevated running track and climbing centre. The parkade, as proposed, is 503 stalls and seven levels.
Neil Connelly, UVic’s director of campus planning and sustainability, said even with the institution’s comprehensive and successful transportation demand management plan, more parking is needed on campus.
CARSA would be built atop an existing 234-stall parking lot. The university has already lost hundreds of parking stalls in recent years as buildings have been constructed on existing lots. As well, since 2003, UVic has received parking variances allowing the school to have 1,000 less stalls than what’s required by Saanich bylaws.
Mayor Frank Leonard was absent from the meeting, as both he and Coun. Dean Murdock (who excused himself before the UVic discussion) have connections to the school that could be seen as conflicts of interest.