Condo tower on the edge of Elk / Beaver Lake park crosses an obstacle in Saanich
A controversial 11-story condominium development on the edge of Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park has cleared a public hearing with the support of Saanich City Council.
Councilors approved the development exemption permits for the 1.3 hectare angular property along Elk Lake Drive after a two-day public hearing, where the proposed development drew both criticism – for its height and its proximity to the regional park – and support, for its design and the need for density and housing options for the growing municipality.
Mike Geric Construction Ltd. offers two buildings on the Dorel Forest Park site, from 11 storeys and ‘terraced’ to a five storey structure adjacent to the neighboring apartment and townhouse complexes.
The project would contain a total of 242 condos, 43 of which would be guaranteed in perpetuity as “affordable” and sold at 15% below appraised value.
The council ultimately decided the way to prevent further urban sprawl and provide new housing options was to build higher, voting 7-2 to move the project to final reading. The only remaining obstacles include an agreement with the developer on amenities and environmental features and other technical matters, as well as a contract with the capital regional district on the affordable housing component.
Judy Brownoff and Nathalie Chambers opposed, both citing environmental concerns.
The development of Royal Oak, bordering the municipality’s urban containment boundary, will be a landmark along the Pat Bay Freeway as one of Saanich’s tallest buildings, although buildings in the Uptown neighborhood could eventually reach 18 to 22 floors.
Com. Colin Plant said the decision was not easy, acknowledging the community was divided on the issue. “I live in Royal Oak and have watched [the site] remain underdeveloped for years. There is a severe housing shortage and a severe shortage in Saanich. Density will help reduce demand and [contain] more urban sprawl.
Residents of two Royal Oak community associations have expressed concerns about the height of the development and the potential impact on the park, as well as noise and traffic.
The Council heard from dozens of speakers and received hundreds of emails during the public hearing.
Resident Burl Jantzen noted that the urban containment boundary was created in 1968 to preserve rural areas for agriculture and forestry, and argued that maximizing housing density in the area would place significant additional pressure. on Elk / Beaver Lake Park, as happened at Thetis Lake Park. .
Diana and Matthew Ellis, who live next door to the property, said in an email that an 11-story apartment building next to the park “will be like a sore thumb.”
Critics also pointed out that the height of the project exceeds a limit of four stories in the municipality’s official community plan, while speakers at the public hearing said a commitment to the property that has been in place for decades limits the site has 98 residential units.
The capital regional district, however, said in a report to council that it had no objections to the project, which helped to tip some councilors in its favor.
Com. Rebecca Mersereau said she recognizes that not everyone will be happy with the decision, but that it is in the long-term best interests of the community. “It sets people up to access goods and services without depending on a private automobile. “
Com. Karen Harper said the project will help house the district’s growing population. “Statistics show that Saanich will reach its expected number of population by 2024 – 10 to 15 years ahead of what was originally planned in the regional growth strategy.”
Com. Susan Bryce admitted that she was influenced by architect Franc D’Ambrosio’s “thoughtful design”. She said the lowered design was not only attractive but also good for neighboring condominiums. The 11-storey part of the building faces the trees of the regional park.
Brownoff is opposed, however, due to the proximity of the regional park and the loss of about 55 mature trees. She said she liked the design, but couldn’t support it due to “the density on the edge of the urban containment line and against a natural park… there will be impacts.”
It was a major victory for the developer. Mike Geric Construction submitted his first construction application to the site in 2013, but he never got past the staff level. This was the third version of the company’s revised plans. It took about 16 months between submitting the new application with a reduced footprint and extra height at this week’s public hearing, including several adjustments with Saanich staff and discussions with neighbors, said Greg Gillespie , Director of Development for Mike Geric Construction.
Gillespie expects to move on to the execution plans and the permit stage before the end of the year. Construction could start early next year.
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