The Christie Point rezoning application will move to a public hearing later this month after hours of discussion, presentations, public input and a tight vote Tuesday night in View Royal.
The atmosphere in council chambers was noticeably hostile and after outbursts from some of the roughly 80-plus people in attendance, Mayor David Screech threatened to have those that could not respect the process removed from the meeting.
“This is not a theatre, this is a business meeting,” Screech said after applause erupted from the crowd during a presentation. “We understand that everyone in this room – except the proponents – are against this.”
Both the Christie Point Advocates and the proponent Realstar were give time to make presentations to council.
Ann Jordan-Mills spoke on behalf of the Christie Point Advocates and the future of current tenants was again outlined for council.
While Realstar has amended a package for residents that will now give them 12 months notice, Mills noted that’s not good enough in today’s market if residents have nowhere to go.
“It’s a whole different world for residents that have lived there for 10, 15 or 20 years,” she said, noting they will face many challenges in just being able to look up new listings. “Where are 161 families going to go?”
With the region’s vacancy rate sitting at roughly 0.5 per cent, she added competition for the few accommodations that are available is overwhelming.
While residents will be given first right of refusal for the new units, Mills noted many will not be able to afford to stay. “The rents will be considerably higher than they are now and no consideration will be given for those not able to pay … It seems to me that our current rental rates are being devalued as are the residents.”
Later in the meeting Coun. Ron Mattson questioned why current residents could not be grandfathered into the new units at their current rental rates. “I do believe residents do come first,” he said.
In response to a request to keep current rental rates for residents, Realstar vice-president Heather Grey-Wolf said “that’s just not the business we’re in.”
She noted the proposed $750,000 contribution to the Capital Regional District’s Regional Housing Trust Fund. “We feel that’s a much stronger way to provide affordable housing in the region.”
She added that the contribution, if leveraged through the fund, could create as many as 67 affordable units in the region. “We recognize the desperate need for affordable housing in the region.”
Mattson didn’t hide his displeasure. “I’m not happy with that answer,” he noted.
Residents that spoke during the public participation portion of the agenda reiterated those concerns as well as questioning the environmental impact of the development, increased traffic, noise, height, density, and how it would affect neighbouring properties as well as their view.
One Greater Victoria resident did speak in favour of the proposal, citing a desperate need for more rental accommodations.
Council members emphasized that the public would be able to weigh in if council decided to move to a public hearing and encouraged those with comments to keep them brief.
At one point Screech noted there would be a 30 minute cap on public participation but allowed it to go on for roughly an hour, letting those that wished to have their say.
“The prime purpose of this meeting is for council to discuss with staff and hear the presentations,” Screech noted. “We need to get to our part of the meeting.”
Coun. John Rogers added “you’re not going to hear that at the public hearing.”
However, during a quick break after public participation roughly one third of those in attendance left.
During council’s discussion after the break, many were puzzled with the height request of 26 metres for the tallest buildings as plans only called for six storeys.
Staff and a project representative explained that this was due to the fact that detailed designs and survey work have not been completed – and will not be until the development permit process.
While council was concerned by this, they asked staff to include restrictions on the proposal that would limit the buildings to a maximum of six above ground storeys, regardless of whether the maximum height would allow for a seventh.
Ultimately, council voted 3-2 in favour of moving the project forward to a public hearing, with Mattson and Coun. Heidi Rast opposed.
The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27 at the Songhees Wellness Centre, 1100 Admirals Rd.
Given the number of Saanich residents at the meeting, council also made sure that all residents (regardless of the municipality) within 400 metres of the site would be notified of the hearing.