Burdett project goes to hearing despite concerns

A proposal for a condominium building near Cook Street Village has been sent to public hearing despite concerns it is too big and will change the character of the street.

Empressa Properties is proposing a four-storey, 36-unit condominium on the site of three 1920s houses at 1120, 1124 and 1128 Burdett Ave.

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City staff recommended the Empressa proposal move ahead, noting the project is in an area designated in the official community plan as urban residential, which supports low- and mid-rise residential buildings up to about six storeys. The proposed site is surrounded by four-storey buildings to the north, east and west.

Across the street to the south, however, are single-family houses in an area designated traditional residential.

“I think it’s divisive,” said Coun. Chris Coleman, council liaison for the neighbourhood.

“It’s not in the fulcrum of Cook Street Village, but the street actually divides where planning says there should be more density on one side, and on the other side it’s more neighbourhood.”

Coun. Geoff Young said the proposal is not out of character in relation to adjoining properties, but that the proposal sits in a transition zone between high-density urban areas and a lower-density residential area.

“One of the reasons the site is attractive for development is because it sits in an area that is traditional residential,” he said, adding that increasing density could destroy that.

He noted that the houses on the south side of Burdett are well-maintained, single-family residences and the owners expect the neighbourhood to stay as is.

About 100 residents have signed a petition in opposition to the proposal. Some of the neighbours suggested townhouses would be a more suitable compromise, and Young said he agreed.

Coun. Pam Madoff agreed “there is a way to get almost as many units done in a much more neighbourly way.”

The question of whether a proposed development enhances or threatens existing buildings on the street has to be asked, Madoff said. This proposal “doesn’t strengthen them. It doesn’t enhance them,” she said.

“It’s almost schizophrenic to have one side of the street looking like this and the other side completely different.”

But others thought the proposal warranted going to hearing.

“I am persuaded by looking at the site and walking around the site and by the information that’s been prepared that this is actually complementary to much of the rest of the north side of the street,” Coun. Marianne Alto said.

Given the context of the site, she said: “I do believe this is an appropriate development.”

Coun. Margaret Lucas said it’s important for councillors to hear from immediate neighbours and those from the wider community.

Mayor Lisa Helps said she was content to send it to hearing, citing the need for more housing.

Helps said if the development was proposed on the south side of the street, staff would have to recommend against it because it would be inconsistent with the community plan. “We have the OCP for a reason and that site of the street and that lot in particular is part of the urban residential [designation].”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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