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Saanich council passes controversial Swan Lake townhouses in narrow vote

Abstract Developments’ 25-unit residential project at 3977 Rainbow Street gets green light
A rendering of Abstract Development’s three storey, 25-unit residential project near Swan Lake in Saanich. (Courtesy Abstract Developments)

The developer of a controversial townhouse project near Swan Lake has finally been able to get the green light from Saanich council.

Tuesday’s public hearing saw a split council voting five to four in favour of proceeding with the three-storey, 25-unit townhouse development that’s been met with intense opposition by the neighbourhood’s residents - with some demanding the project be reduced to 12 or 13 units.

Coun. Colin Plant said 25 units on three lots would increase the unit density of the lots by over 700 per cent — a fact, he said, that ultimately shaped his decision to vote against Abstract Developments’ proposal.

“I empathize with the concerns expressed about road safety, tree loss, impact to the proximal Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary,” said Plant. “But it is the change to the neighbourhood character, as a result of the density proposed, that I find myself unable to support.”

Plant added that he still supports development and increased density at the 3977 Rainbow St. site, but suggested the developer return with a proposal of 19 or 21 units instead.

Mayor Dean Murdock, whose vote helped approve the townhouses, said there’s a clear need for homes that are suitable for families in Saanich, and that single-family homes are largely out of reach for median-income, dual-parent households with children.

READ MORE: ‘Unviable’: Saanich developer won’t slash project’s density in half like residents want

“I heard very clearly, as I think many members of this council did, that people in communities are very supportive of building townhouses that would allow their families and children to find homes in the community,” said Murdock.

“These have been very challenging discussions – both mentally and emotionally – for everyone on both sides of the table,” Tavish Rai, executive vice president at Abstract, said in a statement to the Saanich News.

“In the end, we believe that this is the right kind of housing in the right location — the kind of housing that families in Saanich are looking for. We look forward to providing much needed housing to the District of Saanich that aligns with the municipality’s vision of a sustainable future.”

Abstract previously said that cutting the number of townhomes by 50 per cent was not economically viable.

Approval of the developer’s application is pending an agreement with the district, which requires that garages include electric charging infrastructure, that units be built to be solar ready for future installation of photovoltaic or hot-water heating systems and that the developer provides $75,000 in community-amenity contributions for sidewalk and crosswalk construction.

READ MORE: Saanich council postpones deliberation on contentious Swan Lake development

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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