A Saanich neighbourhood is rallying to keep a daycare that could be ousted for a housing development.
Scott Laming has lived near Colquitz Creek and Tillicum Road for most of his life and for about 20 years, 3656 Raymond St. South has housed a childcare. Since 2016, Compass Childcare has rented the building from owners Abstract Developments.
In 2018, Laming and his neighbours received notice Abstract planned to build a new six-storey, 59-unit apartment complex on the property – six of which would be sold for 10 per cent below market value.
To do so, Abstract Developments applied for rezoning as well as setback and parking variances. The application came to council in June and a revised plan was considered on Sept. 14 before the matter was sent to public hearing which has yet to be scheduled.
Currently, the property is zoned for public assembly, which allows for art galleries, churches, educational institutes, museums, theatres, daycares and other community service centres, said Saanich spokesperson Keslie McLeod. If the application is approved, the zoning would allow for a high-density apartment building.
Since the project was announced, residents have been vocal about concerns regarding the loss of the daycare and increased traffic, said Laming. Lawn signs are scattered across yards for several blocks calling for the daycare and zoning to be preserved.
The facilities permitted in the current zoning are “what makes a city thrive” but are also “under the most financial stress” due to COVID-19, he said, adding that neighbours worry this would set a precedent.
Residents aren’t opposed to development, he said, but rather oppose trading daycare for housing – especially when the district’s 2020 Childcare Inventory and Action Plan says current childcare spaces only meet half the demand in the region.
After Abstract bought the land in 2016, the existing building was rented to Compass Childcare on a fixed-term lease – though a daycare was never part of the long-term plan, said Mike Miller, CEO and founder of Abstract.
After initial community consultation, Abstract submitted a formal development application to Saanich in 2018, he said. This June, council sent the application back and requested more “robust” engagement with neighbours before sending it to a public hearing in September.
“We recognize that childcare is a real big concern” but so is housing affordability, Miller said. A daycare component is not being considered as childcare facilities need to be accommodated from the inception of a project, he added.
Jennifer Shaw, operator of Compass Childcare, said many parents shed tears realizing they’d need to hunt for new daycare spaces. Her lease was set to end in the summer of 2021 but the landlord was permitted to give six-month notice for early termination so the daycare will close by Christmas.
Mayor Fred Haynes said childcare is “a huge priority” for Saanich and “has never been more important” than during the pandemic.
Council will consider all sides before making a decision, he said, adding that even if the zoning doesn’t change, there’s no guarantee a daycare would remain. Haynes isn’t worried about a precedent as every application is “dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”