Helium balloons could help Saanich council make decisions

Council has seen multiple proposals come forward for this lot over the last seven years including plans for an eight-storey condo, plans for 10 townhomes and a four-storey condo and, most recently, plans for three six-storey condos.

Saanich councillors want to use helium balloons to help make their job easier.

The balloons were a suggestion last Monday night from council regular Ken Whitcroft, an Inverness Road resident concerned about how much of a view he and his neighbours will lose if a six-storey condo is built down the road.

He wants height markers – helium balloons, as discussed by council – raised on the property to demarcate how high the proposed buildings will be and to get an idea of what skyline will be blocked out.

“Who doesn’t like balloons?” joked Coun. Dean Murdock. “It’s worth having a look at how high these buildings might be.”

The buildings are part of a planned condo complex at Inverness and Quadra Street that would see two five-storey and one six-storey condos erected.

Council has seen multiple proposals come forward for this lot over the last seven years including plans for an eight-storey condo, plans for 10 townhomes and a four-storey condo and, most recently, plans for three six-storey condos.

But public consultation and concerns about building height spurred applicant Jim McLaren to reduce the height of his proposed buildings.

“I’ve listened and listened and tried to incorporate (neighbours’) ideas into it,” he told council. “We’re trying to do everything we can to mitigate the problems, but I’m at a loss for things to do to make this work.”

Though there remain concerns about the heights of the three buildings that make up the 92-unit complex, council unanimously supported the proposal and moved it to public hearing.

“We’ve zeroed in on some of the main features. … Now we’ll have to make up our our minds, as a council, to move forward on this or not,” said Coun. Wayne Hunter.

Mayor Frank Leonard asked the applicant for geodetic mapping that will provide a more concrete diagram of the building heights because, as Coun. Judy Brownoff pointed out: “If it’s windy, balloons won’t work.”

Leonard pointed out that in December 2009 council approved that earlier 10 townhome, four-storey condo proposal, so that could still be built on the land. “The fallback is a building that’s already been approved. … I’d like to see how the height of these buildings compares to what we’ve already approved.”

Coun. Susan Brice said the current proposal isn’t as “comprehensive and combined” as she’d like to see, criticizing the general layout of the buildings. She also said she wants a more comprehensive traffic demand management plan that completely supports public transit-use.

No date has been set for the public hearing or when the helium balloons will be set up on the property. Brownoff stressed that thorough public notification should be done to inform neighbours of when it happens.

Though the idea of “long poles on a tripod” was also suggested, by Coun. Vic Derman who said it’s “important that people get a sense of how high (the buildings are), Coun. Leif Wergeland acknowledged hot air balloons may be the easiest option.

“All we need to do is buy balloons and have some politicians blow them up.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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