It’s been almost a year since the old View Royal fire hall was torn down.
With the lot still sitting vacant and negotiations for its sale essentially completed, the status of the property is due to change soon. But not before some concerns with access and egress are ironed out for the 37-unit, four-storey apartment building planned for the site at 280 Island Hwy.
Before voting 3-1 to approve the project at a recent meeting, View Royal council heard from residents concerned about the potential for further traffic problems in the area. Several people reminded council about ongoing issues with drivers pulling illegal u-turns on Island Highway or cutting through on neighbourhood streets to have easier access into the southbound commuting line.
A neighbour who lives across Island Highway pointed out that the density along this corridor is almost guaranteed to increase as the Town moves to extend the village-style traffic calming elements along Island Highway from Stormont Road at the top of Four Mile Hill toward Helmcken Road.
That’s why the traffic safety needs to be looked at now, she said.
“This is going to be the first application [of many] along here in the next 10 to 15 years,” the woman said, adding that without a left turn lane leading vehicles out of the development, “it’s going to be a nightmare.”
Project architect Alan Lowe told council that the huge prospective cost of moving the sewer line prompted the designers to move the vehicle access to the higher side of the development, where residents would enter and exit the site on a flat surface rather than an incline. But that decision places the driveway next to the driveway of the Village Grove residential complex at 278 Island Hwy.
Two residents in that development wrote to say they had grave concerns over the safety of not having some kind of left-turn holding bay for vehicles exiting their complex or the planned one at 280 Island Hwy.
Coun. Ron Mattson called the potential for conflict between people turning right out of Village Grove and those turning left out of the new development “a huge issue” that will need addressing sooner than later, “otherwise accidents are waiting to happen,” he said.
He asked Lowe how he felt about the prospect of a “right-in, right-out” scenario for entering and exiting the new development. Lowe stated that Village Grove has no such stipulation, so the Town would have to consider rendering it the same for all properties in that block.
Faced with somewhat of a stalemate over what appeared to be a clear traffic safety issue, council appealed to Town engineering director John Rosenberg for guidance.
He said the ability to create a right-in, right-out access exists for the new project, but could well increase the likelihood of illegal turns in the area.
Coun. Aaron Weisgerber asked whether a possibility exists to twin the driveways of the neighbouring developments. Rosenberg said a power pole would need to be replaced to accommodate such a plan and “would [cost] six figures to move.”
With still no resolution, Coun. John Rogers asked, “What would allow us to prevent this construction until the access and egress are determined?”
Town administrator Kim Anema stepped in at that point and assured council that staff and the proponent would deal with the access issue before a building permit was issued.
Council’s approval – Mattson voted to decline the application – included granting variances that reduce the front and rear setbacks, allow for an extra 0.9 metres in height for rooftop features, increase the height of a west side retaining wall from 1.2 m to 1.6 m and reduce the number of onsite parking stalls from 42 to 40.