Council Monday sent this proposal for a four-storey development on North Dairy Road opposite of the Hillside Shopping Centre back to the drawing board after concerns from area residents about parking, height and massing.

Saanich parks housing development

Concerns about parking among other issues have stalled plans for a four-storey apartment building at the entrance of Saanich’s Shelbourne Valley.

Council Monday voted unanimously to postpone plans by Abstract Developments to build a 56-unit multi-family apartment building at the border between Saanich and Victoria directly opposite of Hillside Shopping Centre near the intersection of North Dairy Road and Shelbourne Street, an area where Saanich plans to increase density in a sustainable manner under the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan.

While several councillors praised the location of proposed development, they raised concerns about various designs details.

“You really have to think about how this fit into the existing neighourhood,” said acting mayor Coun. Judy Brownoff in addressing Mike Miller, president of Abstract Development, and his multi-person team. Others offered comparable comments.

‘These are not minor cosmetic concerns,” said Coun. Susan Brice. “These are about size and parking.”

“This is an ideal location, but it has missed the mark,” said Coun. Vicki Sanders. “Let’s go back, and come back with something acceptable to the community and council.”

Council’s decision to send applicants back for revisions came after neighbours had raised concerns about the potential impact of the development on the neighbourhood. Many comments focused on parking, specifically the number of spots and the type of spots. The proposal calls for 41 surface spots for resident and six for visitors for a total of 47, short of the existing bylaw that requires 67 for residents and 17 for visitors for a total of 84.

This gap prompted neighbourhood concerns about parking spilling onto neighbourhood streets, if Saanich would have granted the requested variances. But if the number of proposed parking spots would have fallen below required levels, they would have accounted for 42 per cent of the area that the lot covers — a “considerable” figure according to staff.

In short, the development as proposed would have been short of parking, while lacking visual appeal, according to its critics, a point made by Browning Street resident Bruce Fowler. “It is a monstrous building and a parking lot,” he said. “This is exactly the type of project we were trying to avoid with the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan.”

It calls for underground parking, said Fowler, who called on council to develop a mechanism that would require developers to justify surface parking, if under-ground parking is not economical.

“Surface parking should be the exception, not the rule,” said Fowler. This project, rightly or wrongly, will set a precedent for future ones through the Shelbourne Valley corridor, he said.

Other speakers focused on the proposed height of the building. Wordsworth Street resident Bailey Toupin said the proposed development would be higher than any other building in the vicinity at four storeys. While a nearby apartment building has a height of three storeys, it partly recesses, creating a more pleasing appearance, something missing from the proposed development, a point also noted by staff.

Renderings show considerable massing along North Dairy Road, and several speakers questioned the appeal of the building.

After hearing these concerns, Miller told council that his company rejected underground because the geology of the area would have made underground parking very costly. This said, Miller appeared agreeable to exploring two options to address the parking concerns: cut the number of the units, or re-consider the earlier rejection of underground parking.

“Either one of those [options], council would be interested in seeing,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who proposed the postponement.

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