A Cook Street Village development proposal more than three years in the making was defeated after a public hearing and discussion by Victoria council Thursday.
In the end, the absence of below-market rate units in the four-storey condominium building, and the removal of existing rental houses, were key stumbling blocks, as a slim majority of councillors voted against Aragon Properties’ proposal for the former Pic-A-Flic Video site on Cook Street and three adjacent lots on Pendergast Street.
The motion to approve was defeated on a 4-4 tie, with councillors Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, Sharmarke Dubow and Sarah Potts voting against, and Geoff Young, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Marianne Alto and Mayor Lisa Helps voting in favour.
The proposal was reduced from the original six storeys and called for 11 one-bedroom units, 28 two-bedroom and nine three-bedroom.
While it did not include any “affordable” units, the proposal called for Aragon to make contributions to the city’s community amenity and housing reserve funds. It also included the purchase of a unit from the city in the Southgate Villa next door at a discounted price, for use by the neighbouring Cook Street Village Activity Centre, possibly for a nurse practitioner.
The package, worth roughly $450,000, wasn’t enough to convince Isitt the requested density increase was worth it on this valuable site.
“If council continues to rubber stamp strata applications, as has occurred in previous years, we’re never going to round the corner and get to the point where applicants understand that in order to develop strata housing in the community, there has to be some offsetting provision for either affordable rental housing or below-market affordable ownership housing,” he said.
Young cautioned council against putting all its eggs in one basket when it comes to housing types.
“I’m very distressed by the weight the existing affordable rental units are assuming in the deliberations today,” he said.
“But it’s essential as city councillors we think about the messages we are sending by our decisions. … We can preserve rental housing, but if we take the position that we’re going to do it at all costs if it’s affordable, and we will never allow any changeover or impacts because they are too painful, there will be consequences in future that will be undesirable for people in the city as a whole.”
Aragon development manager Luke Ramsay called the final decision by council “disappointing.”
“Ultimately the council insisted on this project including affordable housing, a noble goal, despite not being a requirement when we made our application,” he said in an email to Black Press Media.