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A plan to replace the 52-year-old Admiral Inn at 257 Belleville St. with an eight-storey, 35-unit condominium has won continued support from Victoria’s planning committee.
A plan to replace the 52-year-old Admiral Inn at 257 Belleville St. with an eight-storey, 35-unit condominium has won continued support from Victoria’s planning committee.

The three-person committee is recommending a three-year extension to the development permit the project was granted in 2011. It will lapse July 21 if not extended.

About 100 people, many from the neighbouring Laurel Point condominiums, packed city chambers for a public hearing on the development in June 2011. Speakers were evenly split for or against and council ultimately voted six to one in support.

Coun. Pam Madoff was the only councillor to vote against the proposal then and was the only councillor to vote against a permit extension Thursday.

“It was approved by the previous council in the face of significant community concerns that came from a number of different of areas in terms of principles,” Madoff said.

“What were the most important ones for me was that we had very little land in the city that was actually zoned for transient accommodation, and I think that as a member of council I have to take the long view that we may not need a new hotel at this point but in the future, hopefully, those needs are going to change.”

Since the decision, Madoff noted, Victoria has lost downtown hotel rooms.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe agreed there were heated discussions over the development in 2011, but said the transient accommodation zone was developed at a time when downtown Victoria was essentially the only place where a visitor could find accommodation.

Since then, the nature of tourism has changed and many visitors prefer different types of experiences such as staying in a bed and breakfast, she said.

“[Tourists] want to get out and experience what it’s like to be in a city — what the people do, how they work and what their gardens look like,” she said.

Bill Marshall, of Marshall Tittemore Architects, said in a letter asking for the extension that the project didn’t launch in 2011 for a number of reasons, including uncertainty surrounding the HST.

He asked for an extension of three years instead of the usual two, in part because the development will be focused on a high-end market.

“Our client has planned for an 18- to 24-month sales timeline, as the timeline for selling units in this market demographic is longer than other market segments, with the expectation that they will reach a target level of sales sufficient to start construction in a much shorter time frame.”

Should the development permit extension be granted by council, he expects an April launch of the marketing program.

Marshall noted that in some respects, the project has already begun. An amenity contribution of $74,000 for improvements to the Harbour Pathway has been made and improvements to the harbour side of Belleville between Oswego and Pendry completed.

Because there have been no changes to the development permit, no public hearing is necessary before an extension is granted.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com