Tag Archives: density

A place to live, work, and for kids to play

Council approves daycare with rooftop playground
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Roofs are not somewhere children should play, said two Saanich councillors last week during discussions about a rezoning request that would allow a daycare with a rooftop play area.

“I don’t think that is an appropriate place for kids to play,” said Coun. Wayne Hunter, who spoke against the proposal along with Coun. Vic Derman. “This is Saanich, not New York or Toronto or L.A – one of those downtown core areas. This is Saanich.”

However, all seven other members on council decided the daycare – along with restrictive covenants – would serve a great need in the Gordon Head community.

“I believe (the roof) is being put to a higher and better use,” said Coun. Susan Brice, referring to the applicant’s original plan to have a green roof at the soon-to-be-built 3959 Shelbourne St.

Derman, who acknowledged that daycare in the area is desirable, said his safety concerns outweighed that need.

“I’m concerned about the lack of attention to what kind of environment will be created on the roof,” he said. “We’ve basically said we’ll make it safe so they aren’t falling off the roof or if they fall on the roof, they’ll just scrape their knee. That’s it.”

Michael Levin with Praxis Architects told council that there will be resilient rubber surface on the roof to act as a better ground for the children to play on. As well, a six-foot-tall concrete parapet will be built around the perimeter to prevent the children from climbing over the ledge of the four-storey building.

Kids and Company, a Canada-wide chain of daycares, will operate the facility. Vancouver Island Health Authority will inspect and license the daycare.

Brenda Gottfried has operated Freedom Childcare Centre on View Street for 16 years. And since Day 1, a 2,200-square-foot rooftop play area that sits atop Laser City Fun Centre has been where kids play during the day.

“It’s never been an issue with parents because all of the developmental things you want to do with kids, we’re able to do,” she said. “We have a garden, we have climbers, we have tricycles, we have sandboxes, we have water play. So what’s missing? Wet, dirty ground.”

The approved covenants restrict access to the roof at only certain times of the day, and will block access to the roof to any other business (without Saanich approval) if the daycare closes down.

Linda Starr, director of sales and marketing with Kids and Company, says they have existing rooftop play areas at locations in Toronto and Calgary – all without problem.

She cites the standard high parapet, which provides safety and acts as a sound barrier, as well as plastic chain link fencing that divides the play areas for children of different ages.

“To ensure the children are properly protected from the sun, we have a retractable awning over the rooftop play areas,” she added.

As Saanich is looking to make more livable “hubs” along Shelbourne Street, approval of daycare is a step in the right direction, Coun. Dean Murdock said.

“This is something that’s badly needed, especially as we plan out our concept to work, live and play in the same place. These complete kinds of communities are what we’re looking for to encourage folks to settle in,” he said.

Brice suggested that both child and adult daycares become de facto permitted uses in these mixed-use centres that include housing and workplaces. “These are what families need.”

Standing up for farmland

Saanich Council Demonstrates ‘Smart Growth’
A. Furtado, Saanich Voice Online

For the third time since Saanich adopted their Official Community Plan, Saanich Council rejected rezoning applications from developers that wanted to sacrifice potential farmland for short term profits. The most recent application was defeated unanimously, effectively putting an end to the developer’s plan to construct 16 homes on land currently located in the Agricultural Land Reserve. “As our population grows, there is an increased demand for development and pressure to encroach upon agricultural land,” states Saanich Councillor Dean Murdock. “Developing agricultural land to accommodate growth is killing the goose for its golden egg. It compromises our food security and makes a mockery of our land-use plans, while contributing to car-dependent sprawl.”

Councillor Murdock continues “Agricultural land is too important to carve up into parcels for urbanization…Instead of paving our farmland for housing to generate real estate income, we should be looking for more ways to support our local farmers by keeping farming profitable.” With dramatic increases in fuel and food costs, residents are realizing that having local food readily available is no longer optional, but is becoming a necessity. According to Councillor Murdock rising food costs are making it more expensive to put meals on the table “…ensuring we have quality, affordable food supports our farmers, our health and our environment too with a smaller carbon footprint.” The Capital Regional District is also in agreement, as they transition to what is called a “Regional Sustainability Strategy” to promote food security within the region. A CRD memorandum states, “There is a greater need and desire for accessing local food sources to promote well being and to connect with the land. Traditional production and agriculture systems are failing on many fronts, including loss or fragmentation of productive agricultural land.”

This measured approach from Saanich Council to protect agricultural land, comes in stark contrast to neighbouring municipality Central Saanich, where the current council’s attitude towards development is quite different. In addition to re-designating ALR land for the approx. 50-home Vantreight subdivision, Central Saanich is currently fast tracking approval for the Co-Op to build a large scale shopping center on rural land, as well as approving numerous building applications where lots are being divided into parcels as little as 30 feet in width. This may seem ironic, when considering 60 years ago Central Saanich separated from Saanich primarily to protect its land from urbanization.

In Central Saanich, the future of rural land was discussed at the March 30th 2011 Advisory Planning Commission Special Meeting, where fears of “densification” repeatedly arose throughout the evening. A number of concerned residents in attendance spoke out requesting that Council must create guidelines regarding densification that also support the Official Community Plan, before more applications for subdivisions are approved. Resident David Wilson said that Central Saanich infrastructure is over 40 years old and is “insufficient” to support the strain that council is imposing with increased densification. Wilson also noted that development in Central Saanich appears to be “unrestricted” and the community is upset with the lack of consistency and rules surrounding development applications.

Central Saanich Councillor John Garrison was asked for his view on densification. “Any time you put anything down, people regard it as densification…council has approved funding for creating guidelines for densification and to get public input starting in September.” However, according to Garrison, Council has no plans to change how they process development applications while they await these guidelines. Central Saanich Councillor Terry Siklenka, Director on the Council of Construction Associations and a former Director on the Vancouver Island Construction Association, was asked how he felt densification could help Central Saanich. No reply was received.

This Fall there will be a municipal election critical to the future of Central Saanich. The new, incoming council will be reviewing the Official Community Plan, which designates how much farmland Central Saanich will have and where that farmland will be located within the municipality. The ramifications of this review could change the landscape of Central Saanich forever. According to Councillor Murdock, “Protecting and enhancing local food production starts with saving agricultural land and maintaining our community’s urban containment boundaries…doing so will protect our quality of life, food security, our health and our climate for now and for future generations.”

A community destination for Gordon Head

Coffee shop mandated for Gordon Head corner lot
By Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Council’s position seemed pretty clear. Either a coffee shop is guaranteed for the corner of Tyndall and San Juan avenues, or the property would not get rezoned.

After councillors expressed extreme discontent that Matt Pye wouldn’t commit in writing to a coffee shop, he ultimately agreed to a one-year covenant requiring one.

“It’s always been our intent to have a coffee shop there,” said Pye, representing a consortium of co-workers developing the property. “But covenanting the use (of the space) doesn’t fit with the free market (philosophy).”

Coun. Vic Derman explained he had no doubt believing Pye and his colleagues at Active Earth Engineering when they said they have almost secured the café. However, Derman said it’s council’s responsibility to ensure residents have some guarantee a neighbourhood destination will be built.

“That coffee shop is critical to the viability of this project. The issue of neighbourhood walkability on this project relies on the question: walk to what?” Derman said.

“If there isn’t a covenant on the space and it becomes mixed-use residential and office, then the building’s just a benign entity in the community,” Coun. Susan Brice said.

The development will replace the existing derelict corner store in Gordon Head and will include four homes, some office space and the coffee shop, which could include a deli.

Neighbours spoke almost entirely in favour of the project, but – echoing councillors’ sentiments – they repeated concerns about ensuring the coffee shop is part of the plan.

The three-storey building will be adjacent to Tyndall Park, which made the coffee shop a selling feature of the project.

“I have yet to experience a cold, Saturday morning on the sidelines of the soccer field there, but I’m sure that day’s coming. Now I look forward to walking across the street to pick up a coffee,” Coun. Dean Murdock said.

Overall, Pye is quite pleased with the approval of the project and says he hopes to have the old convenience store bulldozed “in the very near future.”

Council gave first, second and third readings to the rezoning application at public hearing Tuesday night.

Creating transportation options in large developments

Kicking the car habit
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Saanich is getting serious about changing the municipality’s current car culture.

Last week, council started the process to create a policy to ensure alternative transportation funding is expected anytime a developer wants a parking variance for a multi-family residential unit in the municipality.

“We want to try to maximize the potential of alternative transportation because (developers are) trying to reduce the amount of parking required, and we want people to be encouraged to move from the default position of always using a vehicle,” said Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the planning, traffic and economic development committee.

“At this point, where we’re asking developers for just a ballpark amount of money (usually $1,000 per unit), saying it can be put towards transit passes, buying bikes or scooters – I think it just waters it down and we run the risk of having money put into a pot that doesn’t contribute to alternative transportation.”

Coun. Dean Murdock said developments will be judged individually so those in areas well-served by transit and bike routes are given more stringent requirements.

“There are advantages here for council, land-use planners, developers and ultimately the residents, (that will come from) locating these new developments with considerable density in major centres on major corridors,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is contribute to traffic in those corridors. So incentives need to be created for people to take public transit, or cycle or walk to their destination.”

Council has seen transit pass programs, bike purchases, car sharing options and shared electric vehicle purchases as commitments from developers.

“We need to explore the success and challenges that go along with those components, so the proponent (of a development) understands our expectations in advance,” Murdock said.

“That way council can take comfort that the proponent has considered the best incentives to encourage residents to choose alternative forms of transportation.”

The reason this is only now coming to the attention of councillors is because of a shift in the types of development being proposed to Saanich.

“We’re seeing more dense residential development in major centres. When you don’t have the surface available for parking, it means you have to go underground, which is a considerable expense for developers,” Murdock said. “Council can say that we’ll tolerate a variance, reduce the amount of parking stalls, and, in exchange, contribute a portion of the money a developer saves to alternative forms of transportation, so residents will not need those additional parking stalls.”

Brice expects the committee will have a policy outlining guidelines ready for council by late spring.

“Up until now, we’ve been working with goodwill. I think everybody’s been trying to advance the issue but it has to be more than just token. We have to look for ways to quantifiably say this investment is likely to result in a change of behaviour.”

A welcome change at Cloverdale and Inverness

Derelict buildings torn down after decade as Saanich eyesores
Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

“Hallelujah!” That was Don Cottrell’s excited reaction first thing Monday morning when an excavator tore through one of four derelict homes that neighbour his condo.

Cottrell lives just steps from the corner of Cloverdale Avenue and Inverness Road where, for almost a decade, neighbours and council have been working to get the eyesores torn down.

“We’re thrilled to see them go,” Cottrell said.

The properties have been boarded up for more than a year, but had previously been problematic for police and bylaw officers attending periodically for squatters, trespassing and vandalism. Neighbours say crime and drug problems persisted for a couple years before the homes were vacated.

Coun. Dean Murdock said he can understand why area residents are glad to see the “poorly maintained, condemned, uninhabitable homes” gone.

“This is the end of a chapter that has been going on for a better part of a decade. It was a chapter where there was a considerable amount of frustration and consternation about the appearance of these houses,” he said.

Quadra-Cedar Hill Neighbourhood Association president Karen Dearborn said the change is welcome.

“It’s kind of like the first sign that the neighbourhood’s being transformed,” Dearborn said. “I had so many people ask me: ‘When are they going to come down? How do we hold Saanich’s feet to the fire to make sure they come down?’ There’s a lot of emotion in the neighbourhood surrounding these homes.”

In August, council set a deadline for the property owners, who are looking to build a new condo building on the corner, to have all the homes torn down by August.

Councillors at the time voiced their frustrations with how long the homes have been problematic for them.

“This has been a black cloud for council for quite some time,” said Coun. Vicki Sanders, who served as president of the community association from 2000 to 2005.

“I think we got the correct development here, rather than saying ‘we need something on that space and anything would do.’ I think that didn’t happen here,” said Coun. Paul Gerrard of The Rutledge complex. It will feature 42 units and a coffee shop.

“It will raise our spirits about the future of the corner, that’s for sure,” Cottrell said. “It’s going to be a much better gateway to the park, and a gateway to the whole community than what’s been there for years. It’s good news for everyone.”

A project the community can be proud of

Deadline set for demolishing eyesores on Inverness and Cloverdale
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

A half-block of derelict buildings will soon no longer be an eyesore for passing motorists or nearby residents.

Four vacant houses on the corner of Cloverdale Avenue and Inverness Road will be demolished by August 2011 to make way for a 42-unit residence and coffee shop.

At public hearing Tuesday night, Saanich council unanimously gave first, second and third readings to issue a rezoning application and development permit to build The Rutledge complex.

The process has taken years, with agreement between council and the developer taking a number of meetings to achieve.

“We’ve seen this issue come before us (at least) five times,” Coun. Dean Murdock said, unsatisfied that the development needed to come back so many times to get what council wanted.

“It should not have come to this. I don’t want to see this chamber become a place of negotiation on community amenities.”

Council approved the development after securing a number of covenants on the property.

As well as a firm deadline for demolition of the existing dilapidated homes, council was able to get a commitment on 32 environmental sustainability initiatives, a contribution to Saanich’s Affordable Housing Fund, alternative transportation incentives for resident and upgrades to the adjacent Rutledge Park.

Tuesday’s public hearing was a continuation of one held last week, which lasted four hours before council asked the developer to return with more information and specifics.

“I think we got the correct development here, rather than saying ‘we need something on that space and anything would do.’ I think that didn’t happen here,” said Coun. Paul Gerrard.

Though many people came out in strong support of the development, there were also a number of concerns, which Gerrard said were addressed by council.

“Democracy’s a messy process, but it certainly turned out a better development here for the community,” said Coun. Wayne Hunter.

The Rutledge will be a 42-unit residence with a small commercial business on the main floor. A covenant was secured to ensure the use of that space be limited to a coffee shop for at least two years.

Coun. Vicki Sanders thanked the community for their patience and input in the long-fought battle to improve the corner properties.

“This has been a black cloud for council for quite some time,” she said. “But I look forward to the day when I get asked ‘Where’s Cloverdale and Inverness?’ and I can say, ‘It’s that gorgeous building next to that beautiful park.’”

Final reading of the applications will go to council at a later date.

Making density work for Rutledge

Public hearing adjourned after marathon session

By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Saanich council will next Tuesday readdress a 42-unit apartment complex with commercial space that stalled following a marathon public hearing this week.

Coun. Dean Murdock said he was “disappointed” at the level of committment from the developer to capitalize on alternative transportation opportunities in the neighbourhood around Cloverdale Avenue at Inverness Street.

“This complex is in a great location, near quality public transit … and in close proximity to the Galloping Goose. The proponent could’ve taken better advantage of that by promoting alternatives,” he said.

Transportation is a key issue for councillors and residents who spoke, as there are concerns surrounding increased traffic and street parking in the area due to a 16-stall parking variance being requested.

Murdock said he’s also disappointed that there will be no affordable housing units offering in the complex. Instead, the developer will contribute $63,000 to the municipal housing trust fund.

There was also consternation, Murdock said, among councillors, that the applicant was ambiguous in committing to specific ecologically sustainable features for the complex.

The public hearing reconvenes Tuesday (Aug. 17) at 7:30 p.m. at Saanich municipal hall.