Members of Saanich council, staff as well as residents used the lobby of Municipal Hall to share pizza early Wednesday morning. Acting mayor Coun. Colin Plant had ordered the food because of the late hour. Counting another public hearing, council met for more than six hours. (Colin Plant/Submitted).

Pizza brightens Saanich public hearing

Acting mayor Coun. Colin Plant orders snacks during marathon session

The public hearing for a controversial development in Saanich’s Cadboro Bay neighbourhood turned into an early morning pizza party when acting mayor Coun. Colin Plant ordered six large cheese pizzas.

Plant — who paid over $100 out of his own pocket and won’t ask for reimbursement — said he ordered the food because the night was shaping up to be a long one, and people deserve nourishment and a break at such a late hour.

The order was not without its logistical challenges. While Plant asked staff to place the order just after 11:15 p.m., the pizza did not arrive until just around 12:45 a.m. as staff looked for a place that was still open. Palagio Pizza was eventually able to fill the order.

“Everybody got enough and there was a little bit left at the end,” he said.

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The impromptu pizza party held in the lobby of Municipal Hall also offered all participants a chance to “metaphorically break bread” as Plant put it.

“It was a nice moment for council and the public,” he said. It could also have been historic. “I don’t know if that is the first time that it has ever happened, but it is certainly the first time during my time that we have taken a pizza break,” said Plant after the recess had ended.

By the time the pizza arrived after midnight, audience members had been sitting and listening to arguments for and against the development in 2500 block of Penrhyn Street for almost four hours, followed by another 40 minutes or so after the break. The meeting itself ended at around 1:35 a.m.

Counting an earlier public hearing held that same night, councillors, staff and members of the audience sat in council chambers for more than six hours, so it is perhaps not surprising that blood sugar levels needed some raising.

“I was a little bit peckish,” said Plant. “Others were feeling peckish too.”

As for the hearing itself, the public heard familiar arguments both for and against the development.

Eric Ochs said opposition to the project essentially comes down to one thing. “It’s not height, it is not design of modern vs. Tudor,” he said. “It comes down to one word — massing. This is a very large hulking project. It is tall, it is broad and it dramatically changes the look of this neighbourhood.”

The public also heard concerns about additional traffic, the seismic integrity of the building and the danger of flooding because of its perceived proximity to the beach.

Other speakers defended the project that is endorsed by staff, which had previously said that the development is consistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP) and Local Area Plan (LAP).

Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning, said in an earlier report to council that the OCP supports a range of housing types within villages centres, including townhouses up to three storeys and low-rise residential and mixed commercial-residential use of up to four storeys. The area’s LAP also supports a consideration of multi-family housing.

Speakers in support of the development pointed to staff’s endorsement, with many noting that the development would provide additional forms of housing.

“I appreciate that the height is relative to other three-storey buildings in the area,” said Colleen Sparks. “I also support density in the area, and the support that would have for the vibrancy of the Cadboro Bay Village. I like the fact that it really supports compact urban design and a complete community.”

More than 50 speakers participated in the hearing. Council, however, did not render a final verdict, as decisions are not made at the public hearing, but at a council meeting which can occur the same evening or at a future date. Prior to the start of the public hearing, council agreed to make a decision at the July 15 council meeting as Mayor Fred Haynes, as well as Couns. Nathalie Chambers, Susan Brice and Judy Brownoff were unable to attend Tuesday’s hearing.

Prior to the start of the meeting, council agreed to delay its decision until the July 15 council meeting.

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