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Saanich considers proposal to increase heights to six storeys in apartment zones

Some apartment buildings from the 1960s and 1970s are teardowns, and six storeys are needed to make a new structure financially viable, says Mayor Fred Haynes.
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Hybury House apartments on Shelbourne Street near Milgard Avenue. Many of the apartment zones in Saanich are in the Shelbourne Valley and Quadra Street-McKenzie Avenue area, and most of the buildings in the zone are three to four storeys. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A proposal to allow more six-storey buildings in apartment zones is set to go to Saanich councillors on Monday.

Many of the apartment zones in the municipality are in the Shelbourne Valley and Quadra Street-McKenzie Avenue area.

Some apartment buildings from the 1960s and 1970s are teardowns, and six storeys are needed to make a new structure financially viable, said Mayor Fred Haynes.

“If we truly wish to have a housing formula that preserves the opportunity of our residents to secure their own housing, we need to ‘flex’ to six floors,” Haynes said. “We’re told that by the banks, we’re told that by the development industry.”

Haynes said he would favour a mix of rentals and condominiums in the new buildings.

The municipality allows heights of one to six storeys in apartment zones, but six storeys are not allowed in most categories in the zone. Most buildings are three to four storeys. Only one six-storey apartment building is currently listed in an apartment zone.

Recent six-storey proposals have typically used other zones, such as “mixed residential” and “comprehensive development.”

A staff report warned that a blanket change allowing more height and density in apartment zones could have unintended, negative consequences in terms of land values, loss of affordable rentals and how buildings fit into an area.

Instead, the report recommends an interim policy that considers allowing six-storey buildings in select areas of busy corridors.

Haynes said one concern is that neighbourhoods containing the municipality’s 211 properties with apartment zoning are governed by local-area plans that are up to 20 years old.

“The issue is now nobody knew 20 years ago we’d be dealing with the housing crisis, the planet crisis, the climate crisis that we have know.

“If we’re going to save the beauty of Saanich, we’ve got to go up.”

Changes to the zoning would be linked to an ongoing effort to update the Official Community Plan.

jbell@timescolonist.com