Residents of the Thetis Heights neighbourhood in Langford packed a committee meeting Monday to voice concerns over a prospective Phelps Avenue development they say has already affected their way of life.
During a rezoning discussion on a proposed townhome/single family home project at 300 and 301 Phelps Ave., neighbours spoke about limited access in and out of the development, the removal of trees that served as a highway noise barrier and added density in an area without the current infrastructure to support it.
In the end, members of the city’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee voted to recommend that council approve the application to allow for “medium-density apartment” and “small-lot” development zoning, respectively, on the two lots – though the wording was modified slightly based on resident concerns.
Some residents had questions about the number of units and the configuration of the structure(s) proposed for the “apartment” lot. The developer has referred to them as “townhouses,” they said, but the rezoning would technically allow for an apartment complex should the developer feel inclined to go that direction instead.
Project proponent Les Bjola of Turner Lane Developments responded to the concerns by saying, “There is no interest in putting an apartment on the site.” He added that he would be “more than happy” to amend the rezoning application to reflect that point and restrict the possibility of a future apartment complex. The condition was added to the committee recommendation that will go before council.
The developments are part of a multi-phase housing project that began last year on land running parallel to the Trans Canada Highway between Phelps and Bellamy Road.
Neighbours said Monday that the clearing of trees along the corridor has already negatively affected their way of life – both in increased highway noise and by removing previously loved and used green space. Some predicted the increased density from this latest phase will lead to more challenges down the road in a neighbourhood that already has traffic, parking and infrastructure issues.
While a lot of information has been presented on the proposed development itself, one resident said, “no one’s really addressing how people will be getting there.” He said traffic would end up using Hansen Avenue, a residential street connecting Phelps and Bellamy.
“Hansen is a sub-standard street. There’s no curb, there’s no gutter, there’s no sidewalk, there’s no lighting, there’s no off-street parking. We’re going to increase the density at the end of Hansen and expect it to perform a duty it was never designed to do?” he asked rhetorically.
Bjola said he will recommend to council that the development cost charges from these projects be earmarked for neighbourhood improvements, rather than going into the city’s general amenities fund.
Despite the apparent compromises, Brooke Somers said later she’s had enough. The Avery Court homeowner has purchased a house in another municipality and takes possession in mid-June.
“I have no desire to live here anymore,” she told the Gazette after the meeting. She added that her real estate agent told her that her home would likely sell for $60,000 less than her hoped for listing price, due to these impending developments nearby.
“I guess I will have to wait for the development to fill and my property value to hopefully rise again (before selling),” she said.
That could be a while, though.
“When the market says that somebody will actually buy what we’re building, we’ll build it,” Bjola said.
The zoning recommendation goes before council on Tuesday (May 19) for public hearing.