There was no decision to be made, but residents and neighbours of the Christie Point Apartments community made sure View Royal council heard their concerns with the proposed redevelopment of the 15.8-hectare peninsula property.
The opportunity to present their case at Tuesday night’s council meeting was provided to give council and staff a chance to hear from the people most affected by a plan by owner-operator Realstar to replace 161 rental suites and townhome units with 473 units in modern buildings between four and six storeys high.
A presentation by representatives of a group called Christie Point Advocates, in front of a standing-room-only, all-ages crowd at the town hall, set the tone for the public participation that followed. Touching on such things as the demographic makeup of the community, a comparison of current rents with the going rates for new rental developments, and traffic issues, they implored council to approach this application with Christie Point residents and the greater community in mind.
Michelle Wright suggested that council consider the Vancouver model for dealing with “renovictions” – projects where an existing housing complex is replaced or completely renovated. She said the Town could ask for such stipulations as financial compensation based on length of tenancy, discounted rent for existing tenants in a new building, and other affordable rental options to allow more current residents to stay.
Fellow presenter Ann Jordan Mills painted a picture of the potential for an already muddled twice-a-day traffic scenario in the area to get worse.
“There will be an extreme impact on traffic in this area,” she said, noting that the timing of the demolition and construction process for Christie Point could well coincide with work on the McKenzie interchange project and the nearby Econo Lodge conversion project. “It will … create more delays and safety concerns than we already have in this area.”
Many residents, herself included, she said, choose not to leave the complex after 3 p.m. unless they absolutely have to, due to severe congestion from outbound DND and Victoria Shipyards traffic, and others heading home to the West Shore.
After the presentation Mayor David Screech pointed out to attendees that the Christie Point owners “at the moment have every right to evict the tenants and cover that site with four-storey buildings under the current zoning if they choose.
The hope, he added, was that the Town could “negotiate a win-win all the way around for existing tenants and the Town and everyone involved.”
Public participation sees lineup at the podium
The first speaker among more than a dozen to come to the microphone asked how, when other groups have examined the feasibility of redeveloping the property and decided against doing so due to unstable land and environmental sensitivity, that Realstar has figured out a way to spend $200 million on a rental project and make it work. He also wondered about the time frame if the project moves forward, with an eye to displaced tenants.
The Town has a mechanism to ensure the property remains for rentals and isn’t converted to condos, Screech said. As for timing, he said a Realstar rep he spoke to that day assured him the project would be completed in phases – it could be almost two years before things got going, he added.
“I don’t think it’s a slam dunk at this point that it will be approved,” he went on, noting, “they have assured me that people will be able to stay on at the same rents.”
Another speaker called on council to look at shifting some of the density targeted for Christie Point in the official community plan to the “underused” View Royal Park, closer to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Others asked council to demand more in concessions from Realstar for the right to build the project.
View Royal resident Doug Critchley noted that Eagle Creek Village developer Omicron put $1 million toward the View Royal fire hall debt and suggested that Realstar should contribute $4.4 million to help retire that debt, help build a new community hall and fund a crossing guard for Shoreline middle school “in perpetuity.” While he supports the tenants and recognizes the need to redevelop the property, he suggested sticking to the four-storey maximum under the zoning.
Environmental concerns were also brought to the microphone.
Saanich resident Vicki Blogg, the secretary treasurer with the Portage Inlet Sanctuary Colquitz Estuary Society (PISCES), reminded council that the project in any form would have a “significant human impact on this environmentally sensitive site.” She said it was critical that any proposal include plans to protect plant and sensitive habitat areas, with such safeguards as signage, restricted areas and enforcement.
Speaking to the overall height of the development, which in some spots would rise above the existing tree lines in its current form, she said, “we do not want a cruise ship parked in the middle of our sanctuary.”
Not everyone had major concerns about the redevelopment. A woman who has lived at Christie Point for 13 years and said “I love it,” likes the designs for the new buildings. “Our place is beyond fixing, and we have rats now – that is included in the wildlife. I may or may not have to move out, but I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
The development application is currently being reviewed by Town staff and is not expected to come before council’s committee of the whole for discussion for another couple of months.