Royal Oak residents have been closely following the Doral Forest Park development application process, and one has to legitimately wonder why this project was approved, whereas a less dense proposal on Raymond Street South was rejected, which by all accounts is better suited to large-scale development. Both decisions went against the recommendation of Saanich Planning.
It is evident that general background factors such as the housing shortage, combined with falling in love with a pretty face, overruled sensibility on Doral. Most importantly, the questions that should have been at the forefront of decision-making: Is this an appropriate development for this site, and what impacts will it have on the neighbourhood? – were set aside as irrelevant, and barely acknowledged by councillors in summing up the rationale behind their decision.
Was favouritism shown to a developer who gave generously to the political campaigns of those councillors who voted in favour of Doral? This deserves enquiry and explanation. Who knows what is happening behind the scenes, but it is very frustrating to neighbourhood residents that their virtually universal and clearly articulated condemnation of the project, including concerns about density, traffic, parking, environment, etc. were completely ignored by seven of nine Saanich council members.
The rationale that some councillors tried to convey about densifying in order to preserve the environment is not supportable at a location that is at the farthest edge of the Urban Containment Boundary, where private vehicle ownership and usage predominate. Additionally, an 11-storey condo tower abutting the most vulnerable area of a regional park will have undetermined impacts on its ecosystem, in part because CRD Parks did not conduct or request an Environmental Impact Assessment.
It is very dismaying that we will have to wait until the next municipal election for democracy and fair representation. Royal Oak residents are a very cohesive, capable and motivated group, and our significant voting block will make every attempt at the next municipal election to ensure that our next elected representatives will not completely ignore our concerns and values.