Recently, the Victoria News reported council’s approval of higher allowable densities, with opposition from Coun. Pam Madoff (thank goodness we have the sane, intelligent voice of Coun. Geoff Young). Then, News readers learned that a proposed replacement for the Admiral’s Inn, (providing residential living within the current ‘tourist zone’ of hotels) has split city council. Predictable complaints came from Madoff who appears to believe that Victoria gives visitors a “reason to be here” because they can be segregated in a tourist zone. As someone living in James Bay, I wish to support the viewpoint of Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who recognizes that what tourists are looking for has indeed changed. For example, tourists staying at the Marriott on Humboldt Street coexist happily with the condo dwellers at the Aria, as is the case for any vibrant city in the world today.
As Young said, regarding the change to the downtown plan: “One of the things we constantly hear is that in other areas it is fast to get things done, and in Victoria it is slow.” How true this comment is, and nothing seems to change. One only has to drive by the boarded-up Crystal Motel on Belleville Street, year after year, to appreciate the stagnant climate resulting from council’s reluctance to embrace appropriate change. One of the many things tourists are looking for in Victoria is an attractive and logical walkway from Ogden Point to the Harbour – the very type of project the condo developer’s amenity package would provide, and which council does not have the funds for. How do councillors like Madoff and Phillippe Lucas hope to make Victoria a truly desirable city, for residents and tourists alike, without the ability to finance necessary projects?
Apart from the need for tourist dollars, it is essential that the city have a viable tax base, and one of the best ways to achieve this is through higher density, and new development resulting from flexible zoning.