Despite concerns about height and other issues, council approved in principle a five-storey condominium development on Shelbourne Street following a public hearing last week.
The development includes 68 units and will further densify the area north of University Heights, after council approved requests for height and setback variances. Several speakers during the public hearing, however, expressed the fear that the development would change the character of their neighbourhood away from single-residential towards multi-residential.
Other speakers feared that the development would violate their privacy and shade their properties.
Josh Yao, who lives in a house next door to the proposed development with his mother, said the development threatens to blot out the sun during the winter months. He is also concerned that future residents living in the development will be able to peek into his house as he meditates. His mother is also concerned that the alignment of the building will undermine the Feng Shui of her home, said Yao.
The development also received criticism from the Gordon Head Residents’ Association, whose president Chris Poirier-Skelton argued that the building would create a massive front on Shelbourne Street. The development would also increase traffic in the area.
“Fast forward a few more years, and the building’s mass and traffic will only increase as further development on Shelbourne is brought forward,” she said in asking council to consider these issues.
While Coun. Colin Plant acknowledged these concerns, he said the development is a sign of things to come.
Concerns from residents about the changing character of the Shelbourne Valley should have found a voice when council formulated the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan, not after it, he said.
While Plant expressed sympathy with neighbourhood concerns about the height of the proposed development, council has to focus on the “greater good” rather than exclusively on residents living in the area.
“I struggle with this, I really do,” he said. “If this were my home, I would probably feel like you do,” he said. “But the decision I am making is for the general municipality,” he said.
Coun Susan Brice agreed. “This is what densification looks like.” While acknowledging concerns, she said the project will add up being an “attractive addition” to the neighbourhood.
The development also includes 10 dedicated rental units for a minimum of 20 years, an aspect that received support during the public hearing.
Alan Wright praised the development. “It’s a great project,” he said. “It cleans up the area a lot, and increases the rentals that we definitely need in that area for students.”
While not affordable housing per se, it adds much needed housing stock to the area, said Coun. Dean Murdock, who echoed calls to formalize affordable housing units in future housing projects. Saanich would benefit now rather than in the future, if it were to insist (rather than ask) on dedicated units, he said.
Coun. Vicki Sanders agreed with many of the concerns heard during the public hearing and opposed the rezoning. The project is subject to a long list of covenants concerning municipal infrastructure, and council withheld final approval of the rezoning request and development permit pending payment of $1,000 to replace two Garry oak trees in a nearby park.