Saanich approves condominimum project despite traffic concerns

Proposal calls for 61 units in high-traffic area near Uptown Shopping Centre

Plans for a 61-unit condominium building near Uptown Shopping Centre received all but final ratification from council despite concerns about parking, as well as the speed and volume of traffic through the area.

The proposal covers properties at 851, 861, 871, and 881 Short Street near its intersection with Oak Street, and council Monday amended a previously issued development permit for a 46-unit multi-family residential project, which never went off the ground. Council also approved variances for parking (with total spaces for residents and visitors dropping to 80 from 92 required spaces) and loading spaces (dropping to none from four required spaces). Council withheld final ratification of the development, until registration of an agreement that dedicates 10 units as rental units for a minimum of 10 years.

But if this sounds rather straight forward, it was not, after residents had raised concerns about the impact of the development.

Scott Low, an area resident speaking on behalf of the Mount View Colquitz Community Association, as well as the local strata council of 870 Short Street, said both organizations are “generally supportive of a multi-storey residential project at that site.” However both organizations fear that this proposal threatens to compound the parking crunch that already exists in the area, where both private and commercial drivers are competing for on-street parking space. “So we predict that if the parking variances are granted, this will worsen the obstruction issues that we experience along Short Street,” he said.

Others, meanwhile, raised concerns about the volume and speed of traffic through the area, with the intersection of Blanshard Street and Saanich Road nearby.

After council’s committee-of-the-whole had heard these and others concerns, a prolonged period of silence among council members prompted chair Coun. Fred Haynes to point out that “it is required someone move it, if there is going to be some action.” But the silence of his colleagues continued and Haynes eventually asked the clerk for some guidance in case nobody makes a motion. Following input from staff, council discussed and approved a motion to approve the proposed changes.

Coun. Karen Harper said the proponent is not responsible for the parking problems that have developed over time in Saanich. “We need to start looking at those, and dealing with them in a much more proactive way,” she said.

Coun. Dean Murdock agreed. “We all struggled with the feedback that we received in the context of what we are being asked to consider this evening,” he said.”Where we got caught was the ability to do something about what’s going on , because this is an existing zoned property with an existing [development permit]. The feedback we are being given, is we have a street parking problem, and nothing in this application tonight is going to fix that.”

Murdock said the question that faces council is whether this proposal represents an improvement over the application that Saanich had already approved. “And I think it is,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to make the parking situation on this street any better. I’m not convinced it will make it worse.”

Each resident will have access to one parking spot, said Murdock. “If you were to look at the map of this area, this is probably the location, where you say, you can get away with that level of parking because you have great public transit, you have got the Galloping Goose Trail, you have major amenities within walking distance.”

This said, Saanich needs to get a handle on parking, said Murdock, who also praised the ten dedicated rental units as a significant contribution.

While Murdock’s colleagues generally agreed with many of these points, Coun. Judy Brownoff expressed concerns about the lack of loading space and disappointment with the terms around the dedicated rental units.

“Ten years go by very, very fast,” she said.

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