For Don Cal, a proposed housing development in Rockland is the wrong answer to the right problem.
From his home on Pentrelew Place, Cal often sees many neighbourhood residents using the church ground-turned-park. Over the years, he’s observed people stopping for lunch in the park, lounging on the grass, and cycling through or playing frisbee.
But that could soon change.
Abstract Development recently proposed the construction of a five- and six-storey multi-unit residential buildings and 12 townhouses, for a total of 93 new residential units, on the site located at 1201 Fort St. and 1050 Pentrelew Pl.
The two residential buildings include a level of underground parking, bicycle storage and private patios, while the townhouses, fronting onto Pentrelew Place, will include rooftop decks and individual private patios.
But not everyone is happy with the proposed development. Cal and other residents want to see development on the site, but are concerned the project doesn’t match the historic style of the neighbourhood, is too large, and the setbacks are not enough.
“What the developer has proposed is just so out of whack to what one could envision here. It was such a shock,” said Cal, adding residents have circulated a petition opposing the project, which has garnered 270 signatures from Rockland residents.
“They’re (the developer) giving us the wrong answer to the right problem. The right problem is this does need to be developed. Victoria does need housing of the right type. This doesn’t provide it … We don’t want this, but we would like to see a really nice development.”
The sentiment is one shared by many city councillors, who voted to send the project back to the applicant to review with staff during a Thursday meeting recently. Most councillors agreed more work needs to be done, regarding the overall look and height of the buildings to blend in more with the neighbourhood.
“It requires a much more robust look at what is appropriate for the site with a priority on density, massing, height and setbacks of buildings,” said Coun. Ben Isitt, adding he would like to see some form of affordable housing included in the project. “There’s not much support for this project. It needs to go back to the drawing board if it has any chance of going to public hearing.”
Coun. Pam Madoff struggled to support the project at all and expressed concern about whether the development is consistent with the city’s Official Community Plan and the Rockland area plan that outlines the vision for the neighbourhood. She also questioned how the project benefits the character of the hertiage corridor.
While Cal isn’t exactly sure what he could like to see on the site, he’s glad the project will be given a second-look, and hopes the developer will listen to council and residents’ concerns, specifically about the massing and height of the townhouses.
“They need to do more than just to work with it, they need to really re-design it,” he said. “This property is an exceptional opportunity and we have a really hum-drum, massive mess of condominiums and I think we need something more sensitive to what this gateway really is. It’s truly a wonderful space.”