James Bay condo development on duplex lots gets narrow nod

Victoria council narrowly approved a 12-unit strata development on Montreal Street, even though veteran councillor Pam Madoff warned it would be “destabilizing” much of James Bay.

Leonard Cole’s Urban Core Ventures plans to build the townhouse-style units on two duplex-zoned lots at 71 and 75 Montreal St. The development will include 12 stalls of underground parking and half of the units will have three bedrooms.

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“In the absence of a plan for that whole neighbourhood, in my view, by approving this we are destabilizing the neighbourhood where you can look at putting six units on what’s currently a duplex lot,” Madoff said.

“What’s that going to do to the rest of the neighbourhood in terms of speculation in the absence of a plan? That’s my No. 1 concern.”

Madoff said that precinct of James Bay is unique in that it was virtually a planned community built in the 1940s to provide worker housing for the Victoria Machinery Depot.

“So we have street after street from Oswego to Dallas to Montreal wrapping around to Niagara that basically is populated with the same type of housing form as these two properties, which is a small house on a relatively generous lot,” said.

“In my view if I supported this I’d be destabilizing the neighbourhood. I’d be further inflating housing prices,” Madoff said.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who supported the proposal, called the decision challenging, both for council and the neighbourhood. “This is our job — to balance the needs of current residents with the needs of future residents,” Helps said.

Helps said the proposal fits with the density in the official community plan and six units per lot is “reasonable.”

Other councillors said they couldn’t support the proposal, which made no concession to affordability. “The one type of housing I don’t see a shortage of is housing for the affluent,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.

As is becoming the norm at public hearings, several people, many younger and from outside the neighbourhood, spoke in favour saying densification is needed if they’re going to be able to find a place to live in residential neighbourhoods. Several were particularly attracted to the notion of three-bedroom units and the one-for-one underground parking.

But others, mostly immediate neighbours, said the development would add to traffic and parking difficulties in the area, do nothing to address housing affordability and make duplex-zoned lots in James Bay targets for rezoning.

The plan is scaled back from a 24 small-unit development the developer proposed earlier.

Approval in a five-to-four vote came following a lengthy hearing last week. Voting in favour were Helps and councillors Chris Coleman, Marianne Alto, Margaret Lucas and Geoff Young. Opposed were councillors Jeremy Loveday, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Madoff and Isitt.


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