The business case for replacement of Saanich’s No. 2 fire hall on Elk Lake Drive in Royal Oak was approved by council in 2019, but the projected tree loss under the plan still concerns a number of councillors.
At its June 13 meeting council voted to forward the required rezoning for sites at the top of Viewmont Avenue and on Elk Lake Drive to public hearing – development variances for building height and siting are also required.
But multiple councillors had comments or questions for staff over the plan to remove 96 bylaw-protected trees, mostly Garry oaks, at the north dead-end of Viewmont Avenue, where the new building would be sited but open onto Royal Oak Drive.
Not only does the project call for a larger two-storey hall able to host eight fire response vehicles and related expansion of other operational elements, the new facility would continue to be the main training centre for the Saanich Fire Department.
During a brief discussion, Coun. Rebecca Mersereau asked whether any consideration was given to building the hall higher as a way to encroach less upon the existing stand of oaks, calling the loss of trees “significant.”
Director of engineering and acting chief administrator Harley Machielse explained there has been much discussion around the tree issue the past two years, noting the situation isn’t ideal. With architects and the fire and engineering departments working on ways of adjusting the plan, it was determined there wasn’t a lot of room to be flexible on the footprint for the building and training yard, given the need for the facility to face Royal Oak Drive.
“We didn’t see a significant ability to get elevated on the site due to those factors,” he said.
Under the district’s tree replacement policy, 294 trees would be planted as a result of the removal of bylaw-protected trees for the project. Current plans call for 51 to be replaced on site while 243 would be planted in Saanich parks.
Coun. Judy Brownoff wondered aloud whether some of the existing trees could be saved and transported and was told staff would look into that as a possibility.
Coun. Nathalie Chambers related the need for more efficient emergency services in the area to her father’s passing in 1987 at her home on nearby Normandy Road, due to the unavailability of an ambulance.
“I am going to support this going to public hearing, because there is one thing that I care more about than trees, and that is people,” she said. “With all the density on the edge of this urban containment boundary, this is the only time you will hear Coun. Chambers approve these trees being removed.”
Under the evening’s consent agenda, council also approved a funding application to the Canada Community-Building Fund in British Columbia for the new fire hall project, which could amount to up to $6 million, if secured.
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