Virginia Errick, under a canopy of Gary Oak trees, looks at her neighbour’s property from her back yard. She’s concerned that, should the development at 515 Foul Bay Rd. be permitted, significant forest and old-growth Gary Oaks will be destroyed. (Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS)

Development a risk to Garry oak woodlands: neighbour

Foul Bay Road development heads to public hearing

Virgina Errick stands under a canopy of a Garry oak trees, and wonders whether the next generation will be able to enjoy this urban forest in the Gonzales neighbourhood.

A development permit with variances at 515 Foul Bay Rd., which borders Abkhazi Gardens, will come before council for public hearing this Thursday (Nov. 23). The Alpha Developments project would separate the panhandle lot into a bare land strata subdivision with four parcels, building three two-storey homes next to the existing early 1900s mansion, which was previously converted into five rental units.

While the neighbours aren’t particularly happy about the contemporary “box” design of the homes, losing 11 Garry oak trees is their greatest concern.

“These trees aren’t coming back,” Errick said, who lives on an adjacent property.

Garry oaks are very slow-growing, and these neighbourhood trees could be hundreds of years old, she said. Errick enjoys the woodlands on her property because it makes it feel like being in the country. Cutting the trees down would destroy the canopy and damage the ecosystem, she added.

“It’s not good for our environment, and it’s not good for the animals that live here. We have eagles and hawks and owls and deer. We need that space for animals to live here, as well as people.”

The developers propose removing 19 trees, including 11 Garry oaks and one arbutus. To account for the loss of greenery, the developer proposes replacing the 12 mature, bylaw-protected trees with 24 young trees.

In addition to those at 515 Foul Bay Rd., up to 14 trees on neighbouring properties (four bylaw-protected) could also be damaged or destroyed through the construction process.

“It’s one thing to affect trees on your property, it’s quite another thing to be impacting trees on neighbours’ properties,” said Karen Ayres, who lives on a bordering lot.

She is also concerned about the environment, the beauty, and the impact on the community. Ayres said the proposal violates the old Gonzales neighbourhood plan, as well as the new one currently being drafted.

While the developers say intended buyers would be families, Ayres doesn’t believe young families would be able to afford the homes, which could go from anywhere between $1 million to $6 million.

Another of the adjacent properties at Chadwick Place was recently developed in a similar manner, but according to Errick and Ayres, the residents are couples from out of province, not families.

“If you want to develop all of this, and housing is the number one priority at the expense of the trees, the canopy, the green space and the environment, then let’s…decide what is the best use of these large tracts of land. It’s really about the trade-off, that you’re destroying all of that to house [a few] people,” Ayres said.

“Our cityscape, and our neighbourhoods, are going to look totally different without our trees.”

Both women said they are not opposed to development, even suggesting they would be fine if smaller houses were built on the lot, if more trees were protected.

But Fred Rohani of Alpha Developments said the plan protects many existing trees.

“This type of precedent where we’re saving an urban forest part of this property, where we’re saving numerous trees, and we’re planting numerous new trees, will add beauty to this property,” he said. “If you come in 10 years to this property when the new trees are all matured, this will look like an urban forest.”

The proposal includes a covenant for tree protection to retain the trees in the area behind the large mansion and other parts of the property, a way Rohani said would achieve growth in these areas.

“Unfortunately, the neighbours, they don’t want to see growth, they just want to maintain status quo,” he said.

Even so, Errick and Ayers said they will be disappointed if the development goes through, and they’re concerned it would set an undesirable precedent for further development in the area.

“It’s not like I want to control the future, but we have to leave something for younger people, to say, this is Garry oak woodland. This is what it’s like. It’s not just in the park, it’s not just in Oak Bay, it’s in Victoria too,” Errick said.

lauren.boothby@vicnews.com

 

Fred Rohani, of Alpha Developments, said much of the native vegetation on the 515 Foul Bay Rd. property will be preserved as “urban forest.” (Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS)

Just Posted

Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson set to hit Rock the Shores stage

Other acts include Bahamas, Allen Stone and Bedouin Soundclash

Saanich seals history with time capsule

Saanich will re-open time capsule in 2067

Canadian military gains valuable disaster experience at RIMPAC

Naval, air force and army personnel practise war activities, humanitarian relief

Croatia loses in World Cup final, Victoria fans still jubilant

“We’re just a small little country, we only have 4.5 million people, and look how far we’ve come.”

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Royal Victoria Yacht Club sends strong presence to BC Summer Games

Oak Bay athlete Max Chapman competes in sailing this week

Beacon Hill off to Little League provincials after big win in district final

Victoria team goes 7-0 for the week in Central Saanich, beats host team 10-1 in final

5 things to do this weekend around Victoria

The sounds of summer Rock the Shores returns to the lower fields… Continue reading

Proposed charges will cost Saanich housing affordability

The head of the association representing home builders in the Greater Victoria… Continue reading

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

LOCAL FLAVOUR: South Island expecting a bumper berry crop

It’s berry time in Saanich. My raspberries are getting plump and ripe… Continue reading

Most Read