Rendering of the Beespot passive house development planned for 5197 Del Monte Ave. It will actually access of Walema Ave. and remove the 65-year-old Del Monte driveway access. Beespot

Cordova Ridge residents reject density of passive home application

Packed chambers postpones decisions for Cordova Bay and Gorge multi-unit housing projects

Residents from Cordova Ridge are locked in a dispute for, and against, the latest development proposal for the one acre lot at 5197 Del Monte Ave.

Fifty-four people lined up in Saanich council chambers and spoke for more than two hours at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the rezoning application for 5197. Applicant Nino Barbon branded the development as Beespot, a stratified one acre plot with that plans to build five passive homes, all centred around a stratified cul-de-sac from the lot’s Walema entrance.

In the end, council postponed both items from Tuesday’s hearing until Sept. 17. When it resumes, council will also decide on the future of the five-storey, 39-unit seniors rental housing at Albina and Gorge roads.

“It was surreal to be at the heart of the public process where the ‘haves,’ or ‘NIMBY’s,’ were opposed to the have-nots,” said Barbon. “The majority of the speakers embraced one of Beespot’s core values of sharing, the willingness to share the local roads and scarce urban land needed to help address our housing crisis with sustainable places of tomorrow.”

The goal of Beespot, Bee for the people who make the hive, and SPOT for sustainable places of tomorrow, is to create a strata lot of five low-energy, sustainable houses that have secondary suites to support multi-generational families, said Barbon. The application asks to rezone the lot from A-1 agriculture to RS-8 to create a the strata lots and would install covenants, one guaranteeing minimum sustainability features for the building, and another to protect trees.

Passive homes have high temperature barriers and are well sealed for low air flow. They come with a higher costs for construction with the expectation the residents will make the money back through lower hydro bills and maintenance costs. Beespot would also include solar panels, and will drill a new well (for an estimated $13,000) to produce its own grey water for showers and toilets.

However, Tuesday’s public debate most hinged on the density of the site, saying five passive homes, each with secondary suites, are too many for a lot on Cordova Ridge (where homes on half-acre lots are common). Opposition also cited the lack of sidewalks, bus routes and the addition of traffic.

Some of the opposition who spoke against the development were the same people that spoke against the previous development attempt on the property in 2016. In that case, the owner Gordon Truswell proposed splitting the acre into four lots, each a quarter acre, but was voted down 4-4 by council at a public hearing (with Mayor Richard Atwell absent). It was so close, Atwell even brought the application back to council for a re-vote, only to lose 8-1. Instead of redeveloping it into three lots, which would presumably have passed, Truswell sold the property, pointing to the fact there are plenty of quarter-acre and fifth-of-an-acre lots on the same block of Del Monte Ave., and that he’d already had a proposal turned down in 2013.

Natasha LaRoche, operations manager for Clean Energy Canada (a thinktank based out of Simon Fraser University), lives kitty-corner to 5197 Del Monte in a 1936-built home. While dozens of neighbours in the immediate area to 5197 Del Monte supported it, Laroche called the Beespot design a misuse of sustainability.

“The features are wonderful in and of themselves, but are used in a way to gain access for the developer, not for the community,” Laroche said.

The proposed density will lead to an increase in emissions rather than a decrease, she added, pointing to the emissions increase from an extra 15 to 20 cars that the residents of the homes and suites.

Gwyneth Turner, across the street at 5196 Del Monte since 1999, said her family is favour of this development.

“I think it will be fantastic, I know this land well,” Turner said. “We need to start trying, we need to start being able to take some risks, try to make a better environment and better neighbourhoods, it’s an incredible plan of community and diversity and environmental impact.

“[I’m] much more excited about what it brings compared to another 7,000 square foot house, built by people who can afford that house, who generally don’t have kids, or a family.”

Ellen Crystal lives on same block on Del Monte, grew up in the neighbourhood and raised her kids there. She said “everyone’s complaining about this being a small lot but the reality in this neighbourhood, the dots are very expensive, so if you’re a home owner you have to have virtually, $800,000, or a million plus, just to get in this neighbourhood.

“Finally, [here’s] a project with a little bit more modest homes, and yes there’s five of them, but they’re smaller, I think this is the kind of thing we need for multi generational families, and absolutely no more ginormous houses.”

Well known Saanich developer Ed Geric of Mike Geric Construction also spoke in favour of the development.

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