After removing an entire building from their current development plans, a representative for the society behind a new $10 million dollar affordable housing complex for seniors at Mount Douglas Court, 1550 Arrow Rd., believes they’ve done enough to alleviate the concerns of opposing neighbours.
So does Saanich council.
With only Mayor Richard Atwell absent, council voted 8-0 in favour to send the Jan. 9 proposal by the non-profit Mount Douglas Senior Housing Society to a public hearing. The proposal is to rezone for a new 80-unit, three-storey building.
“The society wants to be good neighbours, thats why they removed the initial plan for a second phase,” said Deane Strongarthim, who stepped in after the initial proposal was postponed in March.
Following the March postponement, council also asked Saanich staff to look at the traffic case and possible improvements for Arrow Road. There was also an implication that the applicants could downsize their proposal. This came from a strong neighbourhood pushback, led by a group called the Arrow Road Advocates Committee, over concerns of public consultation, height and setbacks from property lines. They don’t conform with Saanich or Gordon Head’s area plans, the committee said.
“If it is council’s intent that proposals for affordable housing need not be compliant with the key planning principles found in the OCP, LAP, SVAP, etc., then we urge council to make formal amendments to the Saanich zoning bylaw to make that explicit,” says a letter from the Arrow Road Advocates of Barb Geddes, Charlene Gregg, Loti Jackson, Marg Buckland, Morven Wilson and Warren Weicker.
Meanwhile, Strongarthim has worked in a planning and consulting role with MDSHS since March on its newest proposal.
For starters, the second phase, a 140-unit, three- and four-storey building, has been completely cancelled (though it was going to take an estimated 10 to 30 years to build). The new height is reduced to a maximum of nine meters (three storeys) and the building setbacks are 17 meters from a rear lot and 13 metres from a side lot line.
Like it or not (many neighbourhood residents remain opposed, particularly to the height, requesting two storeys), there was enough consultation to please council (so far). When the application for rezoning came back before council at the committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 9, Saanich council believed the right concessions had been made.
Initially the application to rezone was from RA-1 (apartment) to RA-2 to permit higher density and height. This time, the revised plan includes a Comprehensive Development Zone, which can include specific rules tailored for the development and the area. It will include a definition of affordable housing, and a maximum of 164 suites written into a housing agreement that is effectively a covenant on the title, Strongarthim said.
“I think it’s hard on the neighbours, they have bought their house and property,” said Dawn Giles, a Mount Douglas Court tenant of five years. “But I think setting the building back and putting in a water feature will make a difference, they’ve really tried to come up with a plan that’s viable.”