Despite formal opposition from the local community association and a multitude of speakers, Saanich council sent plans for a townhouse development to a public hearing.
Council voted 8-1 with Coun. Nathalie Chambers opposed to schedule a public hearing for the proposed development in Penrhyn Street close to the centre of Cadboro Bay Village.
It calls for a three-storey townhouse development with 14 units that would change the land use from single family residential to multi-family residential. This vote came after council heard from the applicant as well as area residents, with opponents out-numbering proponents of the project by no small measure.
With Monday’s vote, council stood in opposition to the Cadboro Bay Residents Association (CBRA) which had issued a formal letter of opposition to the project.
“Its scale and design are out of character with the neighbourhood near Gyro Park,” said Eric Dahli, chair. “It will also significantly overshadow some adjacent properties.”
Public concerns focused on the design of the project, its height, its seismic integrity and its low-lying location near the ocean against the possibility of flooding following a tsunami triggered by an earthquake.
“I think that developing in a flood plain in the middle of a climate change emergency, which this very council has endorsed, is complete insanity,” said Chambers in justifying her opposition to the project, while pointing to widespread flooding in other parts of Canada. She also questioned the affordability of the proposed housing units, and the consultation process with First Nations.
Chambers said Tuesday morning the developer also failed to address community concerns. “This inflexibility and failure to meet neighbourhood design and [incorporate the area’s history] into design bothered me,” she said.
Coun. Karen Harper said the proposal deserves a public hearing. “This application is consistent with the [Official Community] Plan and the [Local Area Plan],” she said. In this context, she pointed out that the development has undergone extensive consultations. As for the specifics of the proposal, Harper said they will undergo debate during the actual public hearing.
Mayor Fred Haynes agreed in saying the application meet the standard of going to a public hearing. While Haynes said he heard “the dissatisfaction of a quite significant part of the audience today,” council also needs to be sensitive towards the community-at-large in echoing points from Coun. Rebecca Mersereau. “The job of council is to be sensitive to all issues,” he said.
Haynes also said that staff supports the project. “They have addressed exhaustively within their report the issues [heard Monday night],” he said, adding that a third party also reviewed flood plain and seismic issues.
While Coun. Judy Brownoff also voted in favour of scheduling a public hearing, she acknowledged concerns heard earlier about the seismic integrity of the project.
“I am concerned about the soil liquefaction,” she said. “I heard about that for a number of years, and that does concern me.”
Soil liquefaction describes a natural occurrence during which water saturated soil start to behave like a liquid following disturbances including earthquakes. It can collapse buildings within short time.
Brownoff also said she remains concerned about the height of the project among other issues including traffic.
“I’m not going to oppose this going to public hearing,” she said. “I expect everybody from Cadboro Bay to come out [again] and re-state all of this. I think there are still a lot of things to answer before I could really say that this is a positive at the end of Penrhyn Street.”