Joyce Tjhin’s impassioned plea against a four-storey condo being built literally in her backyard helped sway Saanich councillors to reject the proposal Monday night.
“There’s no privacy because they (will be able to) see into my bedroom,” Tjhin said of the 21-unit building proposed for the corner of Albina Street and Maddock Avenue, metres from her Tillicum Avenue home. “It’s very close. I don’t like it.”
Councillors agreed with the half-dozen neighbours who voiced opposition, saying that although increased density must happen in that neighbourhood, the time and place are not right for this project.
“Some of our older (single-family) neighbourhoods are well-maintained,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “It could be years before this whole street could go into densification. … it does impact existing residents, who may be in those homes for another 20, 30 years.”
Brownoff told the representative architect that the large windows and balconies overlooking properties like Tjhin’s are too intrusive.
“Surely there must be a way to densify and be harmonious with existing neighbourhoods. There must be configurations … for neighbouring properties to be respected so that this is not just being jammed in,” added Coun. Susan Brice.
The general council sentiment was that the proposal was premature for the area, and the development should be bigger and include more of the neighbouring properties – once existing residents move.
“It’s our (council’s) failure, over time, to have not come up with a comprehensive visioning of major centres. It’s not good enough to say ‘this is a major centre, we’re going to put in density,'” said Coun. Vic Derman.
Coun. Lief Wergeland agreed, saying redevelopment parameters need to be created so neighbours aren’t blindsided by the prospect of foreboding buildings in their backyards.
“Council did, I think, look at the idea that this is going to be quite different for that particular corner of the neigbourhood, and not in keeping with what’s there already,” said Rob Wickson, president of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association.
“That project, maybe 10 years from now, may be perfect for that site, but we first need to have Tillicum and Burnside built out a lot more than they are now.”
Council is currently looking at creating nodes – urban centres near full amenities that will be densified with residences so Saanichites can live, work and play within a compact area. The area around Tillicum Centre is one of those areas.
The project itself was one that councillors admittedly had a hard time rejecting, as it had several qualities in a development they typically look for. Full off-street parking, a green roof, a bus pass program for residents and the construction of a sidewalk in front of the building were among some of those features.
“A lot of this development is excellent, but it needs more work with the neighbours,” said Coun. Paul Gerrard.
Council voted 7-1 to reject the rezoning application. Gerrard voted, instead, to postpone the application. Mayor Frank Leonard was absent.