Sidney’s upward trend in building heights might be coming to an end.
A staff report, part of the official community plan (OCP) review, is recommending Sidney cap the elevation of future buildings along Beacon Avenue east of Fifth Street to three storeys, and to four storeys elsewhere in the downtown core, with a more detailed height allowance map to be worked out for later public input.
The report leaves room for downtown buildings with five storeys, but only in the area from Highway 17 to the half block along Beacon Avenue before Fifth Street, and only by approval through a rezoning or variance request if a “significant public amenity” such as social housing is part of the proposal.
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said during Tuesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting that social housing should be the only qualifying public amenity for the fifth storey in that area.
Corey Newcomb, Sidney’s senior manager of long range planning, said in the report that these proposed policies would remove the current potential for five-to-six storey buildings in parts of Sidney’s downtown.
“(There) is support in the community for maintaining downtown Sidney’s low-rise character,” he said. “Generally, respondents seem to support a height limit of three to four storeys, with fewer people supporting five to six storeys.”
These new proposed policies around downtown density and building heights with its division of Sidney’s downtown into Downtown West (Highway 17 to the half block along Beacon Avenue before Fifth Street) and Downtown East, respond to tension within the community.
The full report detailing community input so far finds “strong support for climate action, housing affordability and active transportation on related goals, objectives and policies presented to-date.” But if recently constructed downtown buildings have added more housing to walkable downtown amenities, they have also caused concern among residents, it reads.
“Some feel that these ‘too large’ and ‘too tall’ buildings chip away at the town’s quaint seaside character,” it reads.
Notably, the proposed limit might not go far enough for Coun. Scott Garnett.
“I do have reservations about anything more than three storeys along Beacon Avenue,” he said. “I have heard about that from the community quite a bit.” Sidney would lose its distinct character if it were to potentially allow five-storey buildings on both sides of Beacon Avenue, he said.
While he understands the rationale for different building heights along Beacon Avenue east and west of Fifth Street, he said Sidney would look like any over-built community.
Other proposed policies call for the support of ground-floor residential uses such as townhouses in Sidney’s downtown (subject to limits), the encouragement of garden suites, secondary suites and duplexes throughout residential neighbourhoods and the creation of a comprehensive “all ages and abilities” cycling network across Sidney.
Following a detailed presentation by Newcomb, councillors voted unanimously to refer the report and the proposed policies to the draft OCP as it is developed.
Councillors then considered the proposed policies in detail with Garnett supporting the proposed height policy as currently presented to the public. The public, along with the municipality’s advisory planning commission, will get a chance to comment on the proposed policies.
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