Although crowds were not what many expected Tuesday night at the public hearing for the Christie Point redevelopment proposal, the meeting still went on for roughly six hours, wrapping up shortly before midnight.
Roughly 200 people were in attendance at the Songhees Wellness Centre, with approximately 55 standing up to voice their opinions, some taking that opportunity twice. Roughly one third of those who spoke were Christie Point residents.
The redevelopment proposal from Toronto-based Realstar Group was met with mixed reviews, with most speaking against the project.
“I’m concerned about the residents of Christie Point … I haven’t lived there a long time but I’ve lived there long enough to make some good acquaintances,” said 82-year-old Keith Bamfield.
He noted that like himself, many of the residents are seniors and this process has caused them a lot of stress, possibly resulting in adverse effects on their health. “My heart goes out to all the folks I call neighbours and friends … I don’t think it’s very fair.”
A common theme of “too high, too dense” quickly emerged from those opposed. Others, including a number of Saanich residents, also pointed to environmental concerns as well as the impact this project would have on neighbouring properties’ views and values.
But there were also many in attendance who supported the project, some of them Christie Point residents.
Marie Denton has lived there for 13 years and during a break she said when she received the first letter from Realstar she immediately asked for first refusal on her unit because she wanted to return once the redevelopment was complete.
“It’s my home,” she said. “I’ve worked hard and I’ve saved.”
She said that she’s not alone in supporting the proposal, but noted that many have been cautious about voicing their opinions with such a vocal group opposed to the project. “It’s been not very nice there because it’s been us versus them,” she said.
Other supporters travelled from Vancouver to speak of the positive impact this development could have on the local rental market with purpose-built units.
The meeting opened with View Royal staff and representatives from Realstar making presentations. Both highlighted some of the changes to the proposal that have been made since the June 13 View Royal council meeting. The most noteworthy was the agreement to grandfather rent controlled units for tenants that have lived in the development for 10 or more years. That translates to roughly 20 per cent of current residents or 33 units. If a resident in one of those units does not return to the development their unit will be offered to another resident, regardless of whether they have lived there for more than a decade.
“We’ve listened carefully and worked to address concerns,” noted Heather Grey-Wolf, Realstar vice-president. “This isn’t a build and exit strategy for Realstar … we recognize we are redeveloping people’s homes and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
Christie Point resident Lisa Cole noted “they’re off to a good start … but in reality 80 per cent of residents are still falling through the cracks.”
Another change was a lowering of the maximum height request to 24.5 metres, with a maximum of six above ground storeys.
As some residents were quick to point during the hearing, if council rejects this proposal, Realstar could redevelop the site to meet the current zoning requirements and would not be required to offer residents the same compensation package or provide the proposed $750,000 amenity contribution.
Staff also reiterated the proposal is consistent with the Town’s official community plan, as amendments can be made to the restrictions in that plan.
Council did not make a decision at the meeting. The project will likely be on the agenda for the July 4 meeting. But as Mayor David Screech noted, the public will not be able to weigh in on this project again until after council has considered it.