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People factor still central to Christie Point project

Open houses detail proposed redevelopment for members of the public
Jason Potter

Residents at Christie Point and other parties interested in the redevelopment of the nearly 16-acre rental complex in View Royal are getting increased opportunities to learn about the details of the project of late.

Two open houses – one in the Christie Point common room for residents Feb. 1 and a public session last Thursday at the Songhees Wellness Centre, saw representatives of owner/operator Realstar and consultants ranging from architects and environmental experts to traffic modellers chat with visitors about their specific areas of the project.

Ann Jordan-Mills is a member of the Christie Point Advocates group that formed around Christmastime, in response to concerns over the potential “renoviction” of longtime residents, not to mention worries over the effects of a proposed expansion from 161 rental units to 473, in buildings ranging from four to six storeys.

Having attended each of the public consultations, as well as separate meetings between Realstar and the advocacy group, she’s pretty well versed in what’s being proposed. She admitted to learning something new Thursday, however, that for earthquake mitigation the power lines would be buried.

Jordan-Mills said she and her husband may be in a position in two or three years to move back into the development. “We don’t have the stresses that some people have; we’re in a slightly different situation.” That said, she continues to have reservations about the overall plan.

“I do feel like it’s going to be a bit like a rabbit warren or a beehive, just so many people on such a small site, that’s going to be hard,” she said. “It’s going to change the whole nature of the place. And I think it’s going to change the nature of the residents as well, very significantly.”

A multi-page handout at the open house offered extensive information to tenants and other View Royal and surrounding community residents via a list of frequently asked questions.

Despite the professionally crafted display boards outlining many of the proposed improvements planned for the property, Melanie Molloy, also a member of the Christie Point Advocates, remains concerned about the disposition of many existing tenants.

“I think there’s an ethical and moral responsibility there to look at the 161 units,” she said, estimating it to be between 350 and 400 residents, “to ensure that each of those people, whether they want to stay permanently … or they do want to be relocated elsewhere or don’t want to be … every single one of those people is accounted for in the process.”

The tenant protection agreement suggested by the group for Realstar, the Town and the residents, she added, was brought forward, “so that safety net is there to make sure no one falls through, for the sake of adding all of these units to a very small area.”

Molloy noted that the long-term disposition of the site has to be solved at some point in the future.

“These buildings are only getting older, so whether it’s Realstar that ends up being the one who gets to do it, or some other developer, it’s about what does the Town want, what does the community want, nwhat does council want? All we can go on right now is the official community plan.”

Realstar has proposed a detailed plan to support residents who may have to move in the event the project is approved. It includes six months’ notice rather than the required two, one month’s rent compensation and coverage of moving and other relocation expenses.

At the open houses, Mills said, the company has come across as genuine in what and how it has been communicating to residents.

“I think they’re sincere in what they’re saying, and I think they’re sincere in wanting to keep us updated now,” she said.

Molloy acknowledged their landlord for bringing residents more into the conversation around this project.

“We know that the word is spreading and that it is growing and people are giving their feedback,” she said. “This opportunity this week was in direct response to the turnout at the (January) council meeting. It’s great that Realstar’s putting it on, but it’s because there’s a need for it.”

Realstar will be making its initial presentation on the project at a special committee of the whole meeting of View Royal council on Feb. 15 (7 p.m.), back at the Wellness Centre.