A four-storey, 75 multi-family unit affordable housing project along Charters Road took one step forward and one step back Monday when Sooke council approved a development plan but rejected a variance permit which would reduce the number of parking stalls required by the developer.
The variance request B.C. Housing proposed would see a decrease in the parking space ratio from 1.5 parking spaces per dwelling to one.
District staff said under the proposal, the development would need to provide 80-parking stalls, comprising of 75 “general parking stalls,” three designated accessible stalls and two for visitor parking.
A parking study prepared by Watt Consulting Group reviewed the zoning bylaw and noted the district does not provide a specific parking requirement.
In a report to council, district staff agreed to the variance request adding affordable housing sites require less parking than conventional multi-family.
The site is located within walking distance to Ecole Poirer elementary, Sooke elementary, Journey Middle School and area recreation facilities. It is less than 400 metres from a transit stop on Sooke Road.
“Reduction of the required parking spaces will provide more green space for residents, concealing parking from pedestrian traffic travelling long Charters Road and require less concrete which will emit less CO2 emissions,” said Matthew Pawlow, Sooke’s director of planning and development.
Some council members and local neighbours were concerned about overflow parking on local streets and recreation facilities.
“I’m not tickled with the ratio going down to one from 1.5,” Coun. Al Beddows said. “I thought this would be ideal for this situation.”
Beddows, who joined with councillors Jeff Bateman and Dana Lajeunesse in defeating the plan, added there weren’t enough visitor parking stalls planned for the project.
Mayor Maja Tait, Coun. Ebony Logins and Coun. Tony St-Pierre voted in favour of the proposal.
Tait said she was unaware of any parking problems with the other two affordable housing complexes in Sooke.
“These are units meant to be affordable. I think if families can afford more than one vehicle, then they don’t need affordable housing,” she said.
Bateman asked if there could be a happy median with the parking requirement or a precondition by B.C. Housing demanding residents to have only one vehicle.
Council opted to send the parking proposal back to staff to discuss options with the developer. A report will return to council soon.
In the meantime, council passed the rest of the development permit on building form and character, environmental protection, roof design and the use of green building materials.
“I think this is a very good development that’s going to be a great asset to our community,” Logins said.