Saanich council has given initial approval to a rezoning and development application for a nine-unit townhouse project on two lots currently home to single-family homes off Shelbourne Street.
The Abstract Developments project, which will see nine three-storey townhomes built at 1661 and 1663 Freeman Ave., won’t go through a public hearing.
Coun. Karen Harper said the townhouses are “absolutely consistent with” the Shelbourne Valley action plan, created through a more than an eight-year public engagement process.
“I do believe in public engagement, but I also believe that once we’ve had that public engagement, we should acknowledge it. And the plan is in place now. And these townhomes are part of that plan.”
Harper said the area is the “right place to put density,” noting it’s on a major transportation route and close to services and shopping.
The longer projects take to approve and the more hurdles they have to clear, the more expensive they tend to be, she said.
A staff report noted the district’s Official Community Plan supports a range of housing types in the neighbourhood, including townhouses, and the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan designates the site for attached housing up to three storeys.
“As a council we oftentimes deal with some very tough decisions — this is not one of them,” said Coun. Susan Brice. “I think that this totally fits into all the plans that we have contemplated. And here is an example of how it plays out in real life.”
Coun. Zac de Vries added that from a climate-change perspective, the district wants housing to be built within the urban containment boundary in neighborhoods that have good access for all modes of transportation, as well as access to amenity-rich centres.
“Further to this, it’s worth noting that the proposal not only meets the replacement tree requirements of the bylaw, but also exceeds the intent of the no-net-loss canopy policy,” he said.
The only councillor to vote against the initial approval was Nathalie Chambers, who argued that just because a projects fits within the OCP doesn’t mean it should avoid a public hearing.
Coun. Colin Plant noted the public could still have its say on the project when it comes back to council for first reading.
“If residents in the chamber and residents watching online feel that we’ve made a mistake and that this should have a public hearing, send us correspondence, reach out to us, call us,” he said. “I don’t think it’s accurate to say that we are trying to shut people out from the chambers.”
>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: email@example.com