Both Victoria City Council and some Rockland neighbours remain unconvinced by Abstract Development’s plans for the former Victoria Truth Centre. The City sent the proposal back for revisions.
Councillors agreed the most recent changes to the multi-phased 1201 Fort Street/1050 Pentrelew Place development plan were an improvement, but they were not satisfied the changes went far enough to protect old-growth trees and privacy of neighbours, and to provide amenities in what has long been used as a park. The density for the 94-unit project was also considered a problem, with the six- and four-storey condominium towers and ten townhomes being a drastic increase from the property’s current use, and that of those around it.
Director of planning Jonathan Tinney answered questions about the height of the townhouses compared to the surrounding neighbourhood, saying they were not significantly taller than single family homes in the area.
In the audience, Geanine Robey laughs aloud. Another yells: “they’re 50 per cent taller!”
Robey is just one of many neighbours who filled council chambers Thursday morning, sitting in the gallery with matching red “Stop over-development” badges. She and other neighbours came to show their displeasure with, what one resident called, the “monster” development.
Robey, who has lived on Ormond Street across from Fort Street for over 12 years, said she is concerned about density, that the development will change the heritage character of the neighbourhood, and that it will remove what has been used for many years as a de facto park.
“What about the heritage corridor? What about the fact that this would be the most dominant development in the corridor?” she said. “The improvements to the townhouses, I agree, are good ones, but they’re still way too dominant given their imposing height and their massing.”
Robey added she was not opposed to developing the land all together, but hopes the neighbourhood’s heritage character can be preserved, and that the developer considers other possibilities that are not quite as large, including affordable units.
“We would like to see a village of multiplex family homes,” she said. “We don’t need more luxury condos. We don’t need luxury, three-storey townhouses with elevators, and we don’t need all the underground parking. We desperately need more affordable options.”
Coun. Geoff Young said in the meeting that some increase in density is appropriate and follows council’s general plan for the city, but the change from the current use is dramatic.
“There is, as Coun. Isitt pointed out, a pretty big difference between the density under the existing zoning as estimated by our planning staff at 6,100 sq.-metres, versus the over 10,000 that [Victoria’s Official Community Plan] foresees, and the 10,900 that is actually in front of us,” he said.
“That is a pretty significant increase in a traditional residential neighbourhood.”
The proposal was sent back to Abstract Development for revisions.