A plan to dramatically change a Saanich neighbourhood’s skyline was rejected last week.
A better effort at public consultation is needed, said council, if developers hope to proceed with plans for three six-storey buildings in the area known as the Cloverdale triangle.
“You’ve come a long, long way,” Coun. Vicki Sanders told the applicants behind the Shire Condos, a 102-unit complex proposed for Inverness Road and Quadra Street, which has come before council in a number of different incarnations over the past eight years.
But she said making development decisions just to beautify an empty lot isn’t a smart way to approve projects. “This has to go back to the community.”
It’s a comment that is often repeated to developers at council meetings.
Several projects have been stalled or halted completely because of inadequate public consultation.
In the case of the Shire Condos, their attempt at letting neighbours know about their plans was limited to a scarcely attended open house held one year ago.
“You need to go back to listen to that community,” said Coun. Wayne Hunter. “And you’re going to get beaten up – but at least you’re out there. It’s important that everyone has the air time and everyone’s opinion is heard.”
Coun. Judy Brownoff agreed, adding it’s about more than just paying lip service to the neighbours.
“I think what developers feel is that they’re not going to get a consensus anyway on some aspects. But, for council, if we see you do that, have the consultation and you amend your project in some way, that’s a plus for you if we see that you’ve been working with the community,” Brownoff said.
Coun. Lief Wergeland said neighbours and the community association also need to make an effort to inform themselves, and ask questions of the developer throughout the whole process. It’s not enough to complain about a project at the 11th hour, he said.
One of the most common problems is that even immediate neighbours aren’t always aware of what’s being planned next door.
It’s unfortunate when that happens, Mayor Frank Leonard said, because public consultation is a “critical” part of the development process.
The Shire Condos’ open house, held on June 22 last year, drew 19 neighbours who signed a guestbook. Five of those also noted their concerns about the height of the buildings.
Last week, three neighbours voiced concerns about the height, which remains at six storeys, as well as the perceived lack of public consultation.
• The June 20 application included three six-storey buildings (one 30-unit, two 36-unit).
• Surface parking would be kept to a minimum, and a secure underground parking garage would accommodate residents’ cars.
• Ten of the units would be guaranteed for low-income seniors.
• Among councillors’ concerns was a confusing, four-lane entrance to the site off Inverness that would lead to both the front entrances of the buildings and the underground parking.
• Concerns also stemmed from guidelines from Local Area Plans and the Official Community Plan regarding density and building height.