Draft Burnside Gorge Neighbourhood Plan moves into final phase

Burnside Gorge the first of 10 new community plans

After hosting more than 40 events and consulting with more than 1,500 members of the public, the City of Victoria is moving into the final round of the draft Burnside Gorge Neighbourhood Plan.

Last Thursday, city councillors received an overview of the “eight big moves” the plan entails thus far.

Those include: establishing a heart of the neighbourhood, protecting and enhancing industry, reconnecting with the waterfront, creating better pedestrian and cycling connections, encourage housing diversity, accommodate performance and festival spaces, traffic calm the arterials and continue transit oriented development on Douglas Street.

According to Mark Cittone, senior planner with the city’s community planning, reconnecting with the waterfront was a top priority for residents since the neighbourhood is largely along the water, but has limited public access. The plan is to first enhance existing public spaces, then look to develop a residential waterfront pathway in two phases, along with a new park.

As for establishing the heart of the neighbourhood, Cittone said staff heard the existing Selkirk Village wasn’t serving that purpose in its current form since it’s largely closed outside of normal working hours and is a bit difficult to access. The Cecelia-Jutland area has the most support to become the heart of the neighbourhood, although there was also support for expanding Selkirk Village and creating a Selkirk and Cecelia Village, along with a smaller urban village on Gorge Road.

“What we heard is this neighbourhood desires a place for gathering, a place for accessing shops and service, somewhere that’s walkable to the residents and employees of this neighbourhood,” said Cittone.

The process to develop a new neighbourhood plan for the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood began in the spring of 2015 when council appointed an advisory group consisting of residents, business owners, landowners, arts and culture representatives, youth, and the Songhees Nation.

The neighbourhood plan is intended to provide guidance for the development of private property and improvements to the public realm. Staff are now in the process of planning the final round of public consultations in October.

So far Geoff Young, the council liason for the neighbourhood, likes what he sees.

“This is a plan where there is really significant public sector input in terms of basically addressing traffic and movement issues. This neighbourhood is one very affected by significant arterials,” said Young. “There really is good potential for us, in terms of linking the neighbourhood together and linking it with the downtown.”

Burnside Gorge is the first of 10 new neighbourhood plans that will be created for Victoria in the next four years. The City of Victoria has 13 neighbourhoods, but many of the plans were created more than 20 years ago.

According to the city, the updated plans will focus on neighbourhood village centres and transportation corridors, and identify community priorities. New neighbourhood plans for Fairfield, Gonzales and Victoria West will begin in 2016.