Ocean Grove developer says he was blindsided by Colwood council

The developer behind the $400-million Ocean Grove project says he was blindsided by a last-minute limit on the number of units it will be allowed to build.

Ian Porter, the director of real estate for Seacliff Properties, said the change “puts everything up in the air.”

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“We’re fairly disappointed,” he said. “It really hurts the feasibility [of the project].”

Colwood council voted to cap the number of single-family homes in the area bordering Lagoon Road and Goldfinch Road at 20 — down from the maximum 85 requested in the application — during the third and final reading of the company’s application to amend a zoning bylaw.

Single-family units are only one component of Seacliff’s proposal to build more than 800 units across the site east of Heatherbell Road, between Seafield Road and Lagoon Road.

Coun. Rob Martin, who brought the issue up at a council meeting, said the decision clarified an inconsistency identified in the developer’s application. While the text of the application asked for a maximum 85 duplexes and detached homes, the illustrations submitted showed fewer than 20.

Council didn’t notice the inconsistency earlier, he said, but neighbours of the site brought it to his attention.

“The neighbourhood fears the small lots will look too intense, that it doesn’t fit the flavour of the neighbourhood,” Martin said.

There’s nothing stopping the developer from applying to add more single-family homes later in the process, he said. “[Seacliff] has approval for the 20 small lots. They could build them, then the neighbours could see what they look like and could become supportive of the other 65.”

Porter said Seacliff is disappointed and confused by the change, and had already addressed concerns expressed by the community.

“We went through a public consultation process, a public hearing. We got community feedback through the entire process and there was never any discussion about reducing the single-family component by roughly 75 per cent,” he said.

“We agreed to an amenity package and off-site upgrades that are very substantial based on the zoning we presented. So to come back and make a large change, at what we consider to be the eleventh hour, there has to be some equity there. … Having said that, we’re hopeful this can be reconsidered.”

Seacliff has agreed to construct a sidewalk and begin off-site improvements earlier than proposed, in response to concerns about pedestrian safety and timing that were expressed during a March 30 public meeting, according to a staff report.

Mayor Carol Hamilton said Seacliff’s presentation materials are dominated by representations that show about 20 single-family homes.

“When you actually dove into it, that’s when [you see] it could have been 85,” she said.

She said the developer could still apply to expand the number of single-family homes through a development variance permit.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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