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City’s $975,000 fee too high: developer

The developer wanting to build two 12-storey residential towers across from Mayfair Shopping Centre is balking at the prospect of paying the city $975,000 for amenities.
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The development — across Douglas Street from Mayfair Shopping Centre between Frances and Speed avenues — is a scaled-down version of a development first proposed in April 2012.

The developer wanting to build two 12-storey residential towers across from Mayfair Shopping Centre is balking at the prospect of paying the city $975,000 for amenities.

Victoria requires developers to make an amenity contribution tied to changes in zoning that increase allowable density, which increases the value of the land. For properties outside the core, city policy calls for an amenity contribution equivalent to 75 per cent of the additional value of the land, as determined by an independent consultant.

In this case, the potential increase is estimated at $1.3 million, so the amenity contribution would be $975,000.

But Mark Johnston, consultant to property owner Brian Martin, says $975,000 is unreasonable. He says a contribution of $200,000, to go toward amenities in the Burnside/Gorge neighbourhood, would be more appropriate.

In a letter to council, Johnston says the original application for the site was made in 2010, prior to the new Official Community Plan being adopted and before the bonus density provisions in the core area were implemented. Further, he says, the development site is in Burnside/Gorge, outside of the core where the bonus density provisions should apply.

Johnston said the landowner is already being required to install a sewage attenuation tank, at a cost of about $200,000, to regulate flows into city sewers. That, he says, should be deducted from the amenity contribution.

He says geotechnical reports indicate the owner will have to install special footings, at a cost of $3.5 million, because of soil conditions. The owner is also required to provide a mid-block pedestrian access and has agreed to a covenant to ensure there are no restrictions on rentals.

Johnston says the new towers will generate new tax revenue to the city of about $300,000 a year.

The development — across Douglas Street from Mayfair Shopping Centre between Frances and Speed avenues — is a scaled-down version of an eight- and 14-storey development that Martin proposed to council in April 2012.

The proposal features two 12-storey towers with a total of 176 residential units. One tower would be stratified and for sale, and the other would consist of rental units. Two levels of underground parking would have 195 stalls.

The ground floor would have 2,438 square metres of commercial space along Frances Avenue, with surface parking for 39 vehicles, as well as 10 townhomes on Speed Avenue. A public walkway is to be built between Frances and Speed.

Councillors have agreed with the staff assessment of the requested amenity contribution, based on city policies. While staff had recommended the contribution go to the housing fund, councillors decided it should be split between that fund and the Burnside/Gorge Community Association.

Coun. Ben Isitt said, however, the charge could be adjusted if the applicant brings forward “compelling information” about why changes should be made.

“The fact is that the applicant purchased some land with a specific type of zoning and the economic analysis is showing that there’s a very substantial benefit to the rezoning that’s requested,” Isitt said.

“I think the policy that the lion’s share of that value should accrue to the public is a very sound policy.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com