With considerable efforts to protect an off site tree that’s outside the property line, Kim Colpman, director of property development for Large and Co., has set out to meet the many demands of concerned neighbours for the proposed 14-unit development at 2326 Oak Bay Ave.
Colpman’s living in the 1940s era house on the property that she bought six years ago, an “orphan lot” sandwiched between two four-storey buildings, one condos, one apartments. Last month Colpman held a community meeting that drew more than 50 people to Windsor Pavilion.
However, some of the more staunch opponents remain unwilling to speak to Colpman despite Large and Co.’s amendments to the proposal, she said.
“Most neighbours are quite happy with it. A lot of people love the look of the [proposed] building,” Colpman said. “We’ve done everything that we’ve been asked, it’s a much smaller building now with less parking spots.”
Originally, Quest was a four-storey project with 15 units and additional amenities of a rooftop garden, patio area and a gym that were accessible by elevator and stairs on the fifth floor rooftop. Those have since been removed. One of the four penthouses has also been removed. The building itself has been shrunk with the floor area ratio going from 2.1 to 1 down to 1.8 to 1. Four of the 18 underground parking spots have also been removed as part of a plan to protect the mature Garry oak that is on the neighbour’s property.
Among the amendments in the newest submission are a height reduction from 15.5 metres to 13.78 metres.
“We are also adding three Garry oaks on our property in the southwest corner,” Colpman said.
Colpman wouldn’t reveal the costs of paying an arborist to assess the neighbour’s Garry oak but did confirm it was an expensive venture to have the oak’s root system carefully checked.
The concept for the Quest started back in 2013 when Large and Co. hired a community planning consultant that knocked on 160 area doors and filed a report with a support rate over 90 per cent. The Quest proposal was then kept in waiting until Oak Bay’s 2014 official community plan was ratified by council in 2015. When it finally made it to committee of the whole in 2017 it was turned down despite being approved by the design panel and the advisory planning commission (with some minor suggestions). Planning had actually wanted the project to go back to the developer for revisions while the council of the day opted only to say no.
Last week John Tiffany of the ‘concerned residents of Oak Bay’ said that though the development came down from five stories to four stories it is still too large and too high.
Thirty-year Oak Bay resident Stan Olsen, who is 81, wants to be first on the waitlist to purchase a unit in the Quest. He lives off Henderson near the University of Victoria. He has strong health but is looking ahead and wants to downsize, including the introduction of a car-free life, he said.
“I want to walk to Ottavios, walk to the Penny Farthing, I drive now but I’m not going to be driving forever,” Olsen said.
Olsen noted that despite Oak Bay’s official community plan making it clear that Oak Bay’s vision is to move away from single family homes and encourage density with multi-unit developments, in particular along Oak Bay Avenue, some opponents are asking for Large and Co. to build townhouses instead.
“There is a need for housing everywhere in the city, there’s some resistance, and my wife and I feel the resistance is political, more than anything,” Olsen said. “To make this big a deal of one tree doesn’t make sense and the history of the tree is that it’s on the next door property anyways.
“No one wants to take about who’s responsible for the Oak tree, as oppose to finding homes for 14 people. If I move in there, it frees up a home for a family. This is 14 opportunities for people to move into a market where people need places to live.”