Parking concerns won’t stall affordable housing project in Saanich

Council approves 73 units for low to moderate income-earners near Uptown

Despite concerns from neighbourhood representatives, council’s committee-of-the-whole approved a development permit with variances for height and parking for a regional housing project near Uptown shopping centre by the Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC)

“The nature of the project of providing housing for those who are probably some of the most disadvantaged for getting housing – adults with disabilities, working singles, and seniors just in general – make it very hard not to support,” said Coun. Colin Plant, who called the CRHC one of the region’s great “success stories.”

It plans to build a four-storey housing development with 73 units under the name of Westview as part of the Mount View Heights Campus of Care, which already includes the seven-storey, 260-unit residential care facility at 3814 Carey Road named the Heights, as well as two other nearby facilities.

Carol Hamill, president of the Mount View Colquitz Community Association, acknowledged the larger importance of the project. “Obviously, this is a very important amenity to the Greater Saanich community, as are the other buildings of the Campus of Care,” she said. “However, the specific neighbours to this site have a paid high price in the loss of quality of life, particularly, with regards to traffic, parking, light pollution, and that very particular noise, which comes from the [seven-storey] Heights building.”

The noise stems from the Height’s complex mechanical and air-conditioning systems located on its roof.

While Hamill touched on a range of issues during her remarks, she warned the new Westview building would further compound the local parking crunch, a phenomenon dating back to 2009, when council granted the Campus of Care project “overly optimistic” parking variances. “It can be argued that affordable housing may warrant generous parking variances, but the cumulative effect is still evident to us,” she said.

Without blaming the specific project, Hamill said Saanich has so far failed to resolve the Height’s light and noise pollution, despite promises dating back years.

Because of its status as a health care building, the Height’s internal lighting stays on 24 hours a day. Hamill said that has never been a problem for the community. It is instead the building’s exterior lights and lights coming from the rooms that contribute to the light pollution, said Hamill.

“Our point is that thee promises of development zone documents do not appear to carry any weight, or to be in any way enforceable,” she said. She also warned council that the community would not tolerate further parking variances, with one more component of the larger Campus of Care project coming forward.

Coun. Fred Haynes acknowledged those concerns and Saanich needs to look at parking throughout the area.

Project manager Paul Kitson said the complex checks off several boxes, because of its proximity to Uptown shopping centre and various transportation routes. He said valuable input from the community improved the final design of the project, and promised that the corporation would honour the design, following questions from council.

“As a public entity, it’s important to maintain a level of reputation in the community,” said Kitson. “We already have one development there, and it will just look poorly upon the CRD, if we did not honour our commitment.”

Kitson also said CRHC would also work with Saanich staff to help mitigate parking issues.

As for noise and light pollution, architect Margaret Newell said the physical arrangement of the Westview project aims to minimize any light pollution. As for the noise pollution, the Westview project features none of the complex features that the Heights require because of its health care status.

Newell said the Westview project will neither improve nor worsen the current level of noise pollution in the area, when asked how its physical presence will change noise patterns in the neighbourhood.

Council’s approval of the Westview project deepens relations between the CRHC and Saanich.

Formed in 1983, CRHC currently operates 45 properties, with almost half found in Saanich.

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