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‘Unviable’: Saanich developer won’t slash project’s density in half like residents want

Saanich council recessed Jan. 24 public hearing to allow for further public input
A public hearing on a proposed residential development aimed to densify Saanich’s Swan Lake neighbourhood is set to resume Feb. 14. (Abstract Developments)

A public hearing on Abstract Developments’ proposed residential project near Swan Lake has been put on pause after Saanich council recessed to allow for further public input.

The proposed three-storey, 25-unit townhome development at Rainbow Street and Sevenoaks Road – which aims to provide the district with its own missing-middle housing options – has sparked controversy among the area’s residents, many of whom attended last week’s hearing to voice their opposition.

Matthew Yerrell took to the podium to express concerns about the 3977 Rainbow St. project, which he says have largely been ignored by Saanich staff and council.

“It was 25 units at the start – it’s 25 units now,” said Yerrell. “The community is not opposed to development. We are simply asking for a development and density in harmony with the functionality of the area and the surrounding delicate, precious ecosystems. The community does not feel that sufficient engagement and consultation occurred initially, or ever, with Abstract and subsequent Saanich staff. Despite letters, phone calls, meetings and Saanich staff and council, nobody has addressed or made Abstract adapt the density of the design.”

Adam Cooper, Abstract Developments’ director of community planning and development, said the company has “directly responded to the concerns raised by residents,” including the addition of 10 new on-street parking stalls, a new crosswalk to Rainbow Park and a complete sidewalk down Sevenoaks Road.

“At all times through the process, we have consistently messaged to the community that we are unable to respond to the request to reduce the density of the project to the degree that they would like,” said Cooper. “Based on our latest conversations, we understand the residents would like to see 50 per cent fewer homes, which would render the project unviable.”

According to Yerrell, significant infrastructure upgrades are required before any construction or development can take place in the neighbourhood. He says Saanich council has even previously declined rezoning applications in the area specifically due to infrastructure concerns along Sevenoaks Road.

At a November 2012 Committee of the Whole meeting, council denied a subdivision application to create one additional lot as residential infill housing in the Swan Lake area, citing concerns over on-street parking and the lack of pedestrian infrastructure.

“At three separate committee meetings, we asked for the density to reduce and they didn’t change it,” said Yerrell. “They are designing developments for maximum return on their investment, without considering the community’s concerns. Does that sound like a company that Saanich wants to use as its development partner?”

The public hearing resumes Feb. 14.

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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