Roughly 49 acres of land on McCallum Road in Langford is being eyed for a new development with the current zoning allowing for more than 400 units on the site.
A proposal to rezone the large property was met with some opposition and misinformation from neighbouring residents at Monday’s council meeting.
“This property, so everyone understands, falls over 40 metres from one end to the other – that’s like 145 feet. It’s a very dramatic piece of property,” said Jim Hartshorne, speaking on behalf of the applicant. “Right now there’s 28 lots that front our property.”
Roughly 45 people packed council chambers for the meeting, which included a public hearing on bylaws to amend Langford’s official community plan (OCP) designation of 790 McCallum Rd. from neighbourhood to mixed-use employment centre and to rezone the property from cluster housing residential to a new mixed-use employment zone. This rezoning could allow for a mixed-use development that could include medium to high density residential, commercial, institutional, recreational and/or assembly facilities.
There is a 30-metre-wide covenant along the western and southern edges of the property that restricts development to single-family homes. However, many neighbouring residents thought that covenant was a landscaped and/or treed buffer zone and were disappointed to hear that development could occur within this buffer.
In response to those concerns the applicant suggested that council lift the covenant and instead would provide a 10 to 15 metre wide landscaped/treed trail that would be established along these edges.
That option didn’t satisfy many homeowners in the room and one resident expressed security and safety concerns about the creation of a trail that would run behind the existing homes.
Another resident suggested the developer create a 30 metre wide natural buffer instead of providing a four-acre block of land for an amenity building. That idea sparked the interest of several residents in attendance but could not be entertained by council as it did not come from the applicant.
Niall Paltiel of Island View Strategies applied for this rezoning on behalf of Seacliff Properties Ltd., the owner of the site. Two open houses were hosted for residents back in the fall and Paltiel provided some more information at Monday’s meeting.
Due to the drastic changes in the topography of the site, Paltiel noted some blasting would be required. But he noted the trail buffer would fluctuate from 10 to 15 metres, with an average of 12, because of the drastic changes in rock height.
“I accept that there’s a covenant and we’ll honour that covenant but I believe this is a better option for residents,” added Hartshorne.
If the covenant isn’t lifted, Paltiel noted the other option would be to clear-cut the trees and blast the rock down to a similar level so the backyards from the new development would be adjoining the existing homes. The covenant does not restrict the number of homes that can be built.
Another resident, Bob Alz, expressed concern about blasting in close proximity to the existing homes. “We have a very new home and a very expensive home. Do we have some protection?” he asked.
Coun. Matt Sahlstrom, whom was acting mayor at the meeting, noted he has been living near a blasting zone and an inspection would be done before blasting started and any damage that resulted from blasting would be covered by insurance.
Residents also expressed concerns about blasting damaging existing trees and suggested it would kill the trees left in the trail buffer.
A few residents suggested that council reject the proposal so the developer could come up with another plan for the site.
However, as one resident pointed out, that could also mean that the developer would be able to build a development within the current zoning that would not require the same public input or amenity contributions.
Under the current zoning, roughly 400 units with a height restriction of 12 metres or three storeys would be permitted on the site. According to staff, a signalized intersection on McCallum Road near the main entry to Costco would be required to support this development. As part of the rezoning application, a new road into the site at Treanor Avenue was requested.
Traffic concerns were brought up by residents and council assured them a traffic impact assessment would be completed.
The site is bordered by one- and two-family residential properties on the north, south and west, Home Depot on the east and some other commercial sites on the south as well.
A number of residents expressed concerns that no details were provided on what the development would look like. “It seems you could put almost anything in there as long as it doesn’t have a drive through,” Norman Rochelle said. “We don’t really know what we’re going to get.”
No details about the future development have been released. However, according to a staff report, preliminary concepts include the possibility of institutional use, commercial use, a range of residential densities, a transportation hub and a recreational facility.
At the end of the meeting, council approved moving these zoning and designation changes forward, along with some additional contributions and other technical requirements, some of which would need to be completed before these bylaws would be adopted.