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LETTER: Saanich council disregards neighbourhood concerns over high-rise

On June 17, Saanich council approved the Doral Forest Park 11-storey, 242-unit condominium project located on Elk Lake Drive on the boundary of Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park. The application is so out of touch with the community values and out of place in its location that it makes one wonder how it could possibly be approved.

A much lesser density project located on Raymond Street South in an area generally more suited for some density was recently rejected by council as not being supported by the neighborhood. What was good for Raymond Street should have been equally the case for Doral. Different developers, different results.

Council in its collective wisdom and with a disregard for public opinion to preserve the current lower density multi-family zoning on the Doral property decided to ignore its own Official Community Plan and Local Area Plan and throw out longstanding community-supported land use principles in favour of this project. How one might ask? Just look to the role of government in this decision. CRD Parks, whose mandate is to protect and manage regional parks on behalf of all residents of Greater Victoria, expressed no opposition to this significant project appearing on its boundaries. Did CRD Parks consult with the public in reaching this decision and did the CRD even consider that the Doral proposal was not supported by current Saanich zoning when it expressed its no opposition? No. Did Saanich council in turn point to the CRD’s no opposition as one of the significant factors supporting their decision to approve the project? Yes.

While the provincial Ministry of Transportation specifically advised against and did not support the Doral project proceeding, the ministry agreed to register the Saanich Bylaw approving the project under the Transportation Act if Saanich chose to proceed. The ministry was right to object to a project that will give rise to significant transportation and traffic issues, but what is the point of that objection if it can simply be ignored by Saanich council using the escape clause that the ministry provided?

With various levels of government effectively backstopping each other, the public and more particularly neighborhoods that are being impacted by major projects such as Doral stand no chance. Saanich council, with both implicit and explicit support of other levels of government who have zero public consultation obligations in reaching their decisions, is free to run roughshod over neighborhoods that were never envisioned to have projects of the scope of Doral located within them.

A travesty of land use planning abetted by government collaboration is the net result.

Roger Graham, president

Royal Oak Community Association