Proponents of a multi-phase development at 1201 Fort St. were peppered with questions about tree loss and density, and offered philosophical statements during a Rockland land-use committee consultation meeting on Tuesday night.
Abstract Development’s project on the former site of the Victoria Truth Centre would include 94 units, spread between a six-storey building, a four-storey structure and 10 townhomes fronting onto Pentrelew Place. Company president Mike Miller heard from most who spoke at Grace Lutheran Church that despite some changes to the earlier plan, the development is still too big and is out of scale with its surroundings.
“I have always wondered why are you trying to squeeze 90 housing units on this two acres?” asked Pentrelew Place resident Don Cal, adding that he told Miller during a home meeting that 35 units would be far more appropriate.
Miller countered more than once by quoting the city’s official community plan, which states that the site is suitable for a (floor space ratio) density of 2-to-1 in the front part of the lot and 1-to-1 in the rear. The average for the project on the nearly two-acre site is 1.39:1, lower than what would be allowed, Miller noted.
Rockland Avenue resident Ian Sutton questioned proponents on the affordable housing element of the proposal and was told Abstract has agreed to build 10 sub-market rate units somewhere in the city by the time the Fort Street project is completed. Later, Cal asked why the “affordable” units could not be included in this development.
In the presentation, project architect Greg Damant outlined “what’s the same” and “what’s changed” about the previous design.
Changes included dropping from 12 to 10 townhouses, moving the six-storey building to the Fort Street end of the lot, shifting placement of the four-storey building and replacing the outside of the two buildings with brick and making the townhomes an arts and crafts style to better fit in with the neighbourhood.
Abstract had shifted the buildings around in an attempt to save more trees, but was encouraged by city planners to push the higher-density building closer to Fort Street, Damant said. The move meant losing one more large tree.
On the matter of trees, speaker Nancy McGregor gave the proponents a history lesson, pointing out that the sequoia seeds that would become two of the largest trees on the property were brought from Sierra Nevada country in the U.S. in the 1860s.
Other neighbourhood speakers brought up concerns over possible changes to the water table in the area given that concrete would cover much of what is now green space, and the potential for blasting on the site to affect nearby homes and older residents’ health.
The proposal is due to come back to city council before it can be sent to public hearing.