New Gonzales Beach retaining wall upsets some neighbours

Some Victorians who live in the ring of houses surrounding Gonzales Beach are upset that a neighbour is building a wall almost at the ocean’s edge.

John Harding, who lives on Hollywood Crescent, said residents were shown pictures of a proposed house for 1871 Hollywood Cres., and signed in support. But about two weeks ago, wooden forms for a two-metre-high concrete retaining wall near the high-tide water mark came as a complete surprise.

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“We had no idea this was coming, until it came,” Harding said in an interview.

The City of Victoria has approved the project, since plans conform with all municipal regulations. For example, the house will not protrude any further toward the ocean than its neighbours, so it will become part of the existing ring of houses around Gonzales Beach.

The plans comply with the municipal rule that states no structure built near the beach can extend further than 36.5 metres from the property’s front border. A retaining wall doesn’t count as a structure, however.

The provincial government, responsible for land between high- and low-tide marks, also looked at the project and declared it a municipal issue. Nothing in the plans shows any construction occurring past the high-tide water mark, so it has nothing to do with the province.

Other neighbours contacted by the Times Colonist — who did not want their names used — had no problem with the project, since it conforms with all the rules.

But Harding said the city-approval process is at fault. He said neighbours shouldn’t be polled for approval and then be surprised by the appearance of an obtrusive retaining wall.

“We don’t really have a dispute with our neighbour,” he said. “The process is flawed.”

The owner of the home under construction could not be reached for comment.

The designer of the new home, Ryan Hoyt, said people have become accustomed to walking across the property during outings to Gonzales Beach. They didn’t realize it was not part of the public beach.

“For a very long time, people were just using a portion of this private property as a public thoroughfare,” Hoyt said.

Once it is constructed, however, people will still be able to walk around the retaining wall to and from Gonzales Beach, even at high tide, since plans have allowed for a space.

Hoyt explained that the project is being built from the beach up toward the road. The retaining wall now under construction will stabilize the sloping property before construction on the house begins.

“The whole project site is just a steep bank that is now eroding and is unprotected,” he said. “This is basically just a landscaping wall.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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