Plans for a townhouse development with 16 units near Royal Jubilee will receive a public hearing despite concerns about its height, density and impact on parking. Submitted

Saanich sends townhouse development to public hearing despite concerns

Opponents of the project say it undermines the character of their community

Plans for a townhouse development will receive a public hearing despite concerns about density, parking, and the loss of trees.

Council, meeting as committee-of-the-whole, voted unanimously to recommend a public hearing for a proposed townhouse complex at the corner of the Richmond Road and Kings Road. Plans call for 16 townhouse units on two consolidated lots near Royal Jubilee Hospital in Saanich’s so-called Panhandle, an area in the community’s southeastern corner where it borders both Victoria and Oak Bay.

‘This is what densification looks like,” said Coun. Susan Brice in support of the application, while acknowledging concerns heard from the public.

Opponents of the project argued that it would not fit into the neighbourhood by virtue of its height (three storeys) and density. Others argued that the project would compound the area’s parking problem, while others urged council to delay the project until Saanich completed proposed upgrades to Richmond to improve traffic safety for cyclists as well as motorists. Finally, several speakers lamented the loss of at least seven protected trees including two large Garry Oak trees. Fifteen trees currently stand on the site and adjacant Richmond Road boulevard.

While the applicant promised to save five boulevard trees along Richmond, staff said that anticipated upgrades to Richmond Road within the next five to eight years “would likely require” removal of all trees along the Richmond Road frontage.

Korbin DaSilva, representing the applicant, said developers would not only pay for future upgrades to Richmond Road, but also for future trees and for the more significant cost of removing them.

Council also heard from voices, who favoured the development as a response to local housing needs.

In many ways, Monday’s input bore a similiarity to the input that eventually convinced councillors to refuse a public hearing for the original proposal to re-develop Townley Lodge in October 2016. But unlike then, council appeared more open to receive formal public input.

Coun. Colin Plant admitted he was “torn” about the proposal, but also prepared to receive public input. “It’s not appropriate to shut this down tonight,” he said.

Coun. Fred Haynes echoed this point. While he acknowledged the concerns of the community over parking among other issues, he also said Saanich would be doing itself a “disservice” by not sending it to a public hearing in light of the current housing crisis.

Coun. Dean Murdock said the public input left him with questions about the proposed density of the development, and “sympathetic” to the concerns of the neighbourhood. “But I would like to hear more,” he said.

A staff report notes the development would change the land use from single-family residential to multi-family residential.

While not located within a urban centre or village, the development would be close to a range of commercial services, various institutional uses, and neighbourhood parks, said Sharon Hvozdanski, director of planning in the report.

“The site is conveniently located and many services are within a walkable distance, it has good accessibility to public transit, and the relatively flat topography in this area is conducive to cycling and walking,” she said.

The townhouses would incorporate a number of Arts and Crafts elements that would be compatible with the surrounding single family homes. All units would include three bedrooms, attached garages, covered entrances and upper level decks.

Council, meanwhile, refused a public hearing for a proposed subdivision on Cordova Bay Road.

The applicants were planning to build build two new single family homes on waterfront lots off Cordova Bay Road, but public concerns about height, density, access and the loss of views convinced councillors to put the project on hold.

“I don’t think this application is ready to be approved,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “I think the applicants need to have more discussion with our staff and neighbours as well.”

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