Saanich council sends Colquitz River housing project to public hearing

Ian Sutherland of Artificer Development said plans for a subdivision near the McKenzie Interchange Project will help replace the four homes lost through the project.

Ian Sutherland of Artificer Development said plans for a subdivision near the McKenzie Interchange Project will help replace the four homes lost through the project.

A proposed subdivision in the Colquitz River Estuary will receive a public hearing, despite opposition from staff and some residents in the area, who argued that the development will not fit the area, while undermining local environment.

Council last week approved the public hearing after Ian Sutherland of Artificer Development presented plans for six bare-land single residences on Portage Road.

Coun. Fred Haynes said the proposal promises to increase the supply of housing and amenities in the area, while maintaining environmental integrity. “That said, I’m mindful that there other arguments to hear and I think it could be useful to bring this to public hearing,” he said.

Other members of council sounded more definitive in their support or opposition of the project.

“It is a very attractive project,” said Coun. Leif Wergeland. “It won’t be an affordable housing project by a long shot, but it will create homes for some very lucky people, who happen to move in,” he said. Wergland also noted that the project would complement the character of the local area and questioned concerns about the environment. “I really believe that it does address that [environmental concerns] and I’m not convinced that the impact on Colquitz [River] will be that great of an impact, if an impact at all.”

Coun. Vicki Sanders disagreed. While she did not oppose sending the proposal to public hearing, “I do think there are too many houses going in,” she said. She also noted that the proposal was lacking a community contribution from the developer, despite claims of extensive community consultation. “And I would think with all of that consultation, that there would be something offered back to the community,” she said.

Council’s decision came after receiving nearly an hour’s worth of input from the proponent and members of the public living near the proposed site located between Colquitz River and the Trans-Canada Highway, some 200 metres west of the McKenzie interchange project now underway.

Sutherland said the proposed development is within walking distance of Tillicum Centre, near three local schools, the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, major public transit routes and a federal bird sanctuary.

The proposal itself calls for the subdivision of two lots into a total of six lots accessible through a private road. Sutherland said no construction will take place between two existing homes and the Colquitz River nor in the area mapped as environmentally sensitive or within 60 metres of shoreline. A report from a registered biologist found no no rare or endangered plant species on the properties, said Sutherland, who promises to place a riparian area constituting 23 per cent of the property under a covenant in perpetuity.

While future construction will remove 23 out of 180 trees on the property, 46 replacement trees will take their place, he said. Other measures will protect Colquitz River itself, he said.

Several speakers praised these measures in praising the project as a model development, but others including husband and wife George and Vicki Blogg raised several environmental concerns. George Blogg said the properties are vital to water-shed draining. He also expressed fears that allowing the development would increase traffic through the area.

Staff also opposed the application, citing local area plan rules designed to protect the semi-rural character of the region.