Audience members cheered as Saanich council rejected plans for a four-storey apartment building in Cordova Bay, a decision that could send ripples throughout the community as it considers other developments.
Council voted 8-1 to reject plans for a four-storey condominium project at 986 and 990 Doumac Avenue after a public hearing of more than five hours.
“We need to go back to the drawing board with the neighbourhood, and understand it better,” said Mayor Richard Atwell.
Reactions to the outcome varied. Mike Dalton of Citta Construction said Wednesday morning that he would not comment on it – at least not yet. “We are still debriefing what happened,” he said.
Hanny Pannekoek, a spokesperson for Cordova Bay Vision, a group critical of the development, cheered council’s decision. “I’m feeling pretty excited about what happened last night,” she said.
Council’s decision means that the developer will not be able to bring the project back to council for at least six months.
Tuesday’s vote came against the backdrop of plans to redevelop Cordova Bay Plaza.
Plans presented last month call for a mixed-use development spread across three four-storey buildings. Central elements include 91 condominium units, commercial space and a grocery store of 17,000 square-feet.
The proposal promises to revive what has been the neighbourhood’s historical hub of commercial activity. In the span of months, it has turned into a “ghost town” following the closure of its key keystone tenant, Tru Value. A number of other stores also closed, leaving the plaza empty.
While Pannekoek is not clear when the Cordova Bay Plaza proposal will come before council, she hopes Tuesday’s decision will inspire more input from the community concerning the future of Cordova Bay.
Pannekoek said her group does not oppose development, but is just trying to maintain the look and feel of Cordova Bay. Cordova Bay could accommodate higher density, but not at the proposed location, she said.
Council’s vote against the Doumac development came after a long public hearing during which most speakers opposed the development on grounds of its character and height, while others raised concerns about traffic.
These concerns found a receptive audience among councillors. While several praised the quality of proposal, they said developers failed to consider neighbourhood concerns. Others meanwhile, including newly sworn-in councillor Karen Harper, said Saanich should revise long-term plans for the neighbourhood rather than approve developments as they come forward.
Coun. Colin Plant was the lone voice of support. “I don’t accept that four storeys are going to ruin this neighbourhood,” he said, pointing to the Official Community Plan. “This is possible for this neighbourhood.” He also urged council colleagues to deal with the application on its own merits rather than linking it with future proposals.
The region has changed radically over the years, he said. “I do find it troubling that this is the spot where we want it to stop, and not do anything further,” he said.
While council’s verdict was clear, several members of council also chided some critics of the proposal for their behaviour during the hearing.
“This has been a bizarre public hearing,” said Coun. Dean Murdock. Some of the discussion disrespected neighbours, staff and council, he said. “I don’t think that enhances anybody’s argument, either for or against.”