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Battle lines drawn in Cordova Bay: Too much, too fast, critics say

Cordova Bay’s village hub seems on the cusp of modernization, and some local residents are trying to fend off major densification on either side of Doumac Avenue.

Cordova Bay’s village hub seems on the cusp of modernization, and some local residents are trying to fend off major densification on either side of Doumac Avenue.

A public hearing Tuesday at Saanich municipal hall will deal with a proposal from Citta Construction to rezone two single-family lots on Doumac for the construction of a four-storey, 25-unit condo, which would fit the concept of a village under Saanich’s development guidelines.

On the south side of Doumac, a proposal from James Gardiner Construction to replace the 1960s Cordova Bay Plaza with a four-storey commercial-residential development has the required zoning, but needs council’s approval to amend a 1998 development permit.

The new plan calls for 88 condos in three levels atop the commercial space, but the permit allowed for 16 condos, which were never built.

“Neighbourhood folks think if council agrees to four storeys there, that will set the standard for other proposals in the neighbourhood,” said Roger Stonebanks, a local resident who keeps a close eye on developments.

Architect Alan Lowe submitted his proposal for the plaza redevelopment, at 5120-5144 Cordova Bay Rd., to Saanich in late January.

Lowe said he expects it will take up to six months for the amendment to be approved.

The new development would include a much larger Scotiabank branch at the corner of Doumac and a 17,000-square-foot grocery store to be built behind the current 7,500-square-foot Tru Value, which is almost at the end of its lease.

Lowe said the commercial development would be concrete and glass, while the residential condos would be of wood-frame construction. Most condos will be two-bedroom units with water views.

He said the development would also have amenities such as a coffee shop, with sidewalks that look like boardwalks.

There will be no laneways within the development, but surface parking will be in the middle of the site and “not really visible from the street,” Lowe said.

The Citta plan calls for the removal of all 27 trees on the property, along with two 1950s bungalows, although project manager Sabahat Naureen predicts the development will be green in a way few buildings in Saanich have been.

Residents in the area have already given council their thoughts on the proposals.

“While most residents of Cordova Bay agree that there is a need for a village, with residences and commercial facilities, and some additional residential housing in the area, few want a dense development with imposing structures, particularly so close to Cordova Bay Road,” wrote Allan Dakin, who circulated a nine-page critique.

He said there is too much high-end housing “with no variety” and in a style incompatible with the local character, and not enough in the way of public or activity spaces.

Colin Millard is one of a dozen residents who have sent Mayor Richard Atwell and council a call for a moratorium on development applications until “a community-based vision for the development of the village” can be defined.

“We’re not against doing the right thing — at the moment, we’re just being overloaded with housing,” he said.

He also questioned the need for a large new grocery store when Mattick’s Farm, a kilometre to the north, is “buzzing” with commercial activity.

An over-arching plan for traffic management is required, he said, given the shopping centre alone would have 320 parking spaces, the majority underground, and drivers will rely on Doumac Avenue for access.

Millard said in an email that the proposal for the plaza site would see buildings almost 50 feet high next to Cordova Bay Road, too high for “an historic low-scale community where Emily Carr came to paint.”

The call for a moratorium said the proposals do not respect “the character of our neighbourhood.”

Lowe said it’s “highly unlikely” that Saanich will place a moratorium on his application given the property is already zoned for the height and density requested, although critics say the zoning itself is out of date.

Millard said that projects ignore Saanich’s 2008 official community plan, which designates the area as a village, because both are too dense to qualify as a village.

Lowe said a village look is in the eye of the beholder, and he warned that people opposed to a development are more likely to be vocal than those in favour.

“Any larger development within a neighbourhood always brings anxiety.”