This artistic rendering shows the revised proposal for the re-development of Townley Lodge. Submitted

Saanich to reconsider housing project

A controversial housing development that once appeared on life support, if not dead, will be back before council during a special meeting Tuesday.

The Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS) will formally present its revised plans for the re-development ot Townley Lodge. Specifically, councillors will consider a rezoning application and a development.

While council will not be in position to give the project a final green light, the fact that the project is back before council will likely strike many as significant.

Almost 11 months ago to the date, council unanimously postponed a public hearing after GVHS had presented its initial redevelopment proposal. The society — which has run the facility since 1967 — was planning to replace 39 low-income rental units for seniors with 67 affordable housing units for seniors, families and the disabled across four housing types, including a four-storey apartment building.

But stiff opposition from residents as well as the Camosun Community Association placed the project in limbo. Council’s decision drew criticism from an unusual coalition of business interests and social justice advocates. Several councillors countered this criticism by noting that council followed due process and that proponent had failed to secure social license from the neighbourhood.

Following the postponement, GVHS considered selling the property, then re-invest its proceeds into affordable housing elsewhere. However the project received a renewed lease on life in early 2017 following meetings between GVHS and neighbourhood leaders and the revised proposal responds to the criticisms aired in late 2016.

The revised proposal reduces the height of the apartment building to three from storeys and reorients it by placing it parallel to Townley Street among other measures.

Sharon Hvozdanski, director of planning, said in a memo to council that the changes “strike a balance between addressing the community concerns, while still providing much needed affordable housing for seniors, persons with disabilities and families. Similar to the initial proposal, the revised plans are consistent with the Official Community Plan policies and relevant design guidelines which were discussed in the Planning Report dated Oct. 6, 2016.”

Overall, the number of units drops to 64 from 67.

Hvozdanski said the revised proposal addresses the concerns raised, while “maintaining a viable affordable housing project.”

The project has generated considerable interest from a variety of community leaders and some have cited its meandering history as evidence of Saanich’s failing planning process. Otherwise however pointed to it as example of community leaders working with developers to address needs such as affordable housing, while retaining the character of a neighbourhood.

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