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Rockland residents fight ‘too much’ development

Protest signs posted in front of stately Rockland homes close to the former Victoria Truth Centre are warning against too much development in the historic neighbourhood.
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Don and Anna Cal with protest sign at their home in Rockland.

Protest signs posted in front of stately Rockland homes close to the former Victoria Truth Centre are warning against too much development in the historic neighbourhood.

At the core of the issue is the question of how much development is appropriate and how best to design and build a housing project on the nearly two-acre site that once housed a church congregation.

Some city council members are asking about the height and design, and whether the proposal would fit into the character of the area.

Abstract Developments is proposing to build two condominium buildings of five and six storeys and a dozen townhouses on the site.

Abstract founder Mike Miller bought the land for slightly more than $7 million last year. It borders 1201 Fort St. and 1050 Pentrelew Pl. One side faces a busy street, the other is next to a neighbourhood of single-family houses.

Abstract has applied for a rezoning to build 93 housing units. The condominium buildings would be located closer to Fort.

Residents have been used to a park-like space on that property, which now has low-rise church buildings, plenty of green space and tall trees. They have picnics there. Their children learned to ride their bikes on the site.

Concerns about the project prompted Victoria city council’s committee of the whole to vote last week in favour of sending Abstract’s plan back to staff for further work.

Anna and Don Cal, who live on Pentrelew Place, believe the proposal is too large and tall, that it would create a wall of tall townhouses along Pentrelew and it does not fit in with the neighbourhood.

The Pentrelew area is a “wonderful, quiet, quaint little nook,” Anna said Tuesday.

They are part of a group called Concerned Residents in Rockland, which has its own website, concernedresidents.ca, and is selling signs for $10 each. Don Cal said 320 names have been collected on a petition for city hall outlining community concerns with the

proposal.

“We just would like it to be built within the context of the neighbourhood in which it finds itself,” he said.

Miller said Tuesday that it was too early to comment because Abstract has to speak with city staff to fully understand the motion, which had been amended at the meeting.

“Abstract has 18 years of successful development experience in Greater Victoria. We remain committed to the community like we always have,” he said.

“We believe in high-quality design. We are going to use guidance from staff and guidance from the official community plan to make the final decisions on the application.”

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he is hypothetically not opposed to six storeys on the site. However, when he stood close to the nearby Greater Victoria Art Gallery, it was clear that a building of that size would be “quite looming.”

Coun. Pamela Madoff questioned how the proposal would follow the official community plan’s requirement for development to respond to Fort Street’s heritage corridor. The Rockland neighbourhood plan also states new projects should be compatible with the character of the neighbourhood.