The property at 1712 and 1780 Fairfield Rd. has been approved for development by the City of Victoria. Residents are upset about the decision since the proposed development is 2.5 storeys, where the Official Community Plan only allows two. (File contributed/City of Victoria)

Victoria neighbourhood takes City to court over variance approvals

Some members of the Gonzales neighbourhood are unhappy about a new development

A group of the Gonzales neighbourhood residents is taking the City of Victoria to court over a recent development approval.

John Wells is a neighbourhood advocate who’s spearheading the case after the City approved a 2.5 storey townhouse development at 1712 and 1720 Fairfield Rd. on Aug. 8. According to the area’s Official Community Plan (OCP), buildings may hit a maximum of two storeys.

For over two-and-a-half years the development, brought forward by developer Aryze, has been under negotiation with the City of Victoria. In the end, the developer had to apply for two variances: a height variance from two, to 2.5 storeys, and a reduced setback. The resulting development will provide 20 townhouses, ranging in size from one- to three-bedroom units.

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“It’s an awful lot of residences in a relatively small footprint,” Wells said. “In order to shoehorn that in they’ve asked for several variances …. City council does not have the authority to simply change that on a whim.”

Wells, who has lived in the area for over a decade is concerned that the tall, wide building will encroach the charm of the area, especially its neighbouring Hollywood Park.

“I see how people enjoy the park and a concern of mine is with this looming building coming right up to the park, you can imagine that people aren’t necessarily going to want to have a picnic in an area where there are balconies.”

Wells has filed a case against the City in court, and started a GoFundMe page to help offset the legal costs, with a goal of fundraising $20,000. At the time of publication, it had raised nearly $2,000.

While the city heard a lot of input both for and against the development, in the end, it endorsed the project.

“It’s not sustainable that nine per cent of the city’s landmass only has .08 per cent of the city’s townhouses,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps at the Aug. 8 council meeting as she concluded the decision. “It’s very difficult to sit up here and hear half the people say ‘we do want this building’ and the other half to say ‘we don’t want this building,’ and our job is to look around and to listen, and our bigger and most difficult job is to look towards the future.”

ALSO READ: OCP update will review development, density– Sidney mayor

Helps further argued that increasing housing density in the area would help contribute to the city’s climate action plan, reducing the need for many people to travel by car to where they need to go.

For Wells, and the dozens of other people behind the court case, the decisions around the development have more to do with principle.

“We’re not against development. I see development as a healthy part of any community, but this development seems to go too far, too quickly,” he said. “If this is allowed to go through unchecked, this sets a precedent that the OCP can be ignored.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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