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Duplexes, condo project in James Bay to go to public hearing

While a number of councillors expressed misgivings about the proposed development, none were willing to dismiss the project out of hand.

James Bay residents will get a chance to weigh in on the future of two developments in the neighbourhood after council’s committee of the whole advanced the projects to public hearing.

The projects include an 18-unit apartment complex in the 500-block of Rithet Street and two duplexes in the 500-block of Simcoe Street.

City staff had recommended that council decline the rezoning application for the Simcoe duplexes, noting the proposal was inconsistent with a number of city policies and that vehicle circulation and parking dominate the site. Staff would have preferred a ground-oriented houseplex with green space and reduced paved area.

The project, to be built on a vacant lot at 557 Simcoe St., would include two buildings with two units in each.

While a number of councillors expressed misgivings about the proposed development, ranging from lack of green space to too much paved area for vehicles and a lack of a “pedestrian friendly” aspect to the project, none were willing to dismiss the project out of hand.

“If we were to decline this proposal, I think that we should do it following a public hearing and not prior to it, because it obviously appears that the staff and the applicant have come to a place where they can’t reach agreement,” said Coun. Stephen Andrew.

Coun. Marianne Alto agreed, saying while it’s not an ideal project for the area, it does provide some important housing options.

“This is something where I would like to hear from the public at a public hearing before making a final deliberation,” she said. “It is a real tough balance point between looking at the parking issues and the provision of additional housing.”

Council had no such problem moving the 18-unit project forward.

Plans call for a four-storey building to replace two older homes at 515 and 519 Rithet St. The new condo building would feature a shared building rooftop deck, raised front-yard patios with direct unit entry and one level of underground parking with 21 spaces.

Both projects were unanimously moved to public hearing.

aduffy@timescolonist.com