By tabling a massive, seven-storey parkade last October, Saanich council sent the University of Victoria a strong message about proper public consultation.
And the message was heard loud and clear, as evidenced by a near lack of criticism of the smaller, less invasive parkade at Monday night’s council meeting.
While residents’ concerns about height, location and expected traffic impacts led to a six-hour council meeting in October 2011, the greatest criticism about the new design surrounded the potential light pollution the project may let off.
“It’s hard to complain about a process that’s so complete, comprehensive and provided so many opportunities to engage,” said Coun. Nichola Wade, paraphrasing one speaker. “I take my hat off to UVic for raising the (public consultation) bar.”
Council unanimously approved the university’s development variance permit for height and parking at Monday’s meeting.
“I wanted to give this my support a year ago; I think this is a fabulous facility,” said Coun. Susan Brice, talking about the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) that the parkade will be attached to.
She added, however, that the new parking garage is much better than what was previously proposed, and credits a thorough consultation process.
“Consultation can’t occur if there’s only one party. There has to be input from the community that has to be heard, and there has to be a reaction; it’s very much a back and forth process. So to everyone who was involved, I say thank you,” Brice said.
A more thorough consultation process that spanned this winter and spring, conducted by H.B. Lanarc, resulted in UVic submitting a parkade design to Saanich that looks drastically different than anything council had seen before.
While the initial parking garage was planned to be 503 stalls over seven levels, the new plan proposes 332 stalls over five levels, one of which will be buried.
Eleven individuals total spoke to council, the majority of whom spoke in favour of the project, namely the CARSA side of things. CARSA will be a 17,685 square-metre complex including a 2,100-seat gym, a four-court field house, an elevated running track and climbing centre.
“We’re pleased with the outcome, obviously, and we’re looking forward now to getting tenders out and getting them out to process so we can look to construction,” said Kristi Simpson, the university’s associate vice-president responsible for campus planning.
Barbara Raponi, with the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, said her community association (as did the neighbouring Mount Tolmie and Gordon Head residents associations) supported the new plan, but outlined concerns about making the consultation process more transparent.
“It’s our view the current proposal represents a compromise between UVic’s original design and the views of Cadboro Bay residents,” she said.”While the consultation process had some good aspects, we felt it was somewhat top-down.”
One neighbour spoke about her concerns regarding white light pollution (“I hope there’ll be full consultation to install only full cut-off fixtures everywhere for the sake of maximums safety, minimum light spills … and for the esthetic appearance) and water-impervious surface materials used on the project (“Will they be porous?”).
Coun. Dean Murdock excused himself prior to the meeting, as he has a connection to the school that could be seen as a conflict of interest. Mayor Frank Leonard, who also could be seen as having a conflict of interest, and Coun. Leif Wergeland were both absent from the meeting.