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Saanich council overrules traffic fears, staff to approve ‘boutique’ micro-units

Project set to go on Tyndall Avenue
A joint project between Tri-Eagle Development and Cadillac Developments would see a 58-unit housing proposal made up of 22 townhouse units, 34 apartment units and two one-bedroom townhouse units at 4201 Tyndall Ave. (Joe Newell Architect rendering)

A new 58-unit multi-family site will be coming to 4201 Tyndall Ave. in Saanich’s Gordon Head neighbourhood after council unanimously approved the development.

But the approval did not come without pushback. Council went against the recommendation of district staff to reject the application, and many residents voiced concerns at the public hearing about traffic and parking concerns.

Proposed by Tri-Eagle Development and Cadillac Developments, the project plans for three separate buildings containing 24 townhomes and 34 micro-units — referred to by the developer as “boutique residences” — for a total of 58 new homes.

Travis Lee, president of Tri-Eagle Development, stated the project’s goal is to “identify residents who can’t afford to be in the neighbourhood right now,” by providing affordable homeownership opportunities to prospective first-time buyers, students and seniors looking to downsize.

Price points for the 350-square-foot “boutique residences” are expected to start in the $300,000 range and aim to serve as an affordable starter home for young prospective buyers, providing them with an entry point into Victoria’s housing market.

But Lee indicated the project was unable to follow through on six different areas recommended by staff, including mitigating the development’s impacts on adjacent properties, increasing setbacks from the road and reducing surface-level parking by looking into underground options.

“The challenge we have when working with (Saanich’s) bold people in the planning department is they don’t have the policies yet,” Lee said, adding both the Local Area Plan (LAP) and the Official Community Plan were out of date.

“If we just went by the policies Saanich has, we’d have in front of you a six-storey condominium like we have on Shelbourne Street, but this is not the right location for that.”

Coun. Colin Plant added this type of development is a great fit for the community, and said such discrepancies between community needs and policy are why council is elected in the first place.

“If all we ever did was follow policy and never applied what we think is the community’s desire, then there really wouldn’t be a need for council,” he said. “Our job is to provide a lens into what is happening, and the LAP … didn’t even envision multi-family housing here.”

All councillors acknowledged residents’ concerns about pre-existing traffic and parking issues in the area and how the development, which plans to add 53 surface parking stalls, would likely exacerbate these problems.

Staff noted Tyndall Avenue is already flagged in the active transportation plan and will receive upgrades such as sidewalks and an additional crosswalk by 2030. Other measures, such as speed reductions and raised crosswalks, might also be possible.

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Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff said the issues aren’t inherent to the project and are “deeper problems” requiring their own discussions around the council table.

“The idea of saying we have too much traffic then wanting more parking spots — there’s tension between that,” he said. “If we wanted to have less traffic, we should have less parking and fewer cars, and I think we’re building toward that.”

The plan also includes a 59-stall bicycle storage room and the developer will provide one tricycle cargo bike for the use of all residents. Several councillors said the storage area was one of the best designs they’ve seen and hope it will lessen residents’ reliance on cars.

Phelps Bondaroff added he would have liked to have seen more than the one bike stall per unit currently allotted in the design, noting while people tend to share cars, they don’t usually share bikes.

Coun. Susan Brice said the development is “a convergence of good things coming together,” with additional housing for Gordon Head that is accessible for first-time homeowners and facilitated by a developer who knows the area well.

“I look forward to this being an example to show that single-family neighbourhoods can harmoniously have an integration of a slightly low-density (multi-family) housing incorporated in the area,” she said.