View Royal council expected an earful Tuesday at a public hearing about a $200-million Portage Inlet redevelopment and they got it.
At times more than 20 people were lined up at the microphone at the Songhees Wellness Centre to voice predictions about a proposal to replace the two-storey Christie Point Apartments. Developer Realstar Group is proposing to replace a 161-unit rental complex with 473 units in mostly six-storey buildings.
David Hutniak, chief executive officer of Landlord B.C., supported the proposal, saying that few purpose-built apartments have been constructed in the past 40 years.
“Given the current rental crisis, the community cannot afford to miss this opportunity,” he said.
But Emily Rogers, a legal advocate for Together Against Poverty Society who lives in View Royal, contended that approval for the 312 new units would make the affordability crisis in the capital region even worse.
Realstar Group said it would give current tenants, who pay market rate for large waterfront units, first right of refusal should the complex go ahead, but Rogers said “the vast majority of people at Christie Point will not come back — they will not be able to afford to do so. Most will have to leave the community.”
She urged View Royal to follow Victoria’s lead and declare a six-month moratorium on demolition of rental housing.
As part of its proposal, Realstar has committed $750,000 that View Royal can use as it sees fit for affordable housing.
Rogers said a few displaced and homeless tenants could easily cost the social system that amount.
The height of the proposal, now topped at less than 25 metres, down from 26 metres, is a major issue for people who enjoy the current view of trees higher than the buildings they mask.
“There isn’t a point of having a community plan if you can’t uphold it,” said Brennan McKnight, who lives 100 metres over the Saanich border. She criticized the height and the density, and fears inadequate setbacks from buildings for “what is meant to be a federal bird sanctuary.”
Realstar vice-president Heather Grey-Wolf said in an email to the Times Colonist that the proposed six-storey height does not contravene the official community plan, a view shared by the town planning department.
The Christie Point site would be a mixed residential site. Town planners have said that proposed variances on heights and setbacks are in compliance with the intent of the municipality’s guidelines.
The proposed density is still 30 per cent below the maximum density allowed on the mixed residential zoning being requested, Grey-Wolf noted.
The project “will be a disaster for us,” said Barbara Scott, a homeowner who lives nearby and fears towering buildings and a total loss of privacy.
View Royal homeowner Emmett McCusker said the site has been “underutilized for years” and that the proposed development “is going to look good.”
The rezoning is scheduled to come to a council vote on July 4.