Saanich rejects Cordova Bay condos amid community outcry


A groundswell of community opposition was evident as Saanich councillors rejected a controversial four-storey condo development in Cordova Bay, a move that could create a chill for other developments in the area. 

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Councillors voted 8-1 against a proposed development at 986 and 990 Doumac Ave. after a five-hour public hearing this week.

The development by Citta Group would have removed two 1950-era houses and 27 trees on two single-family lotsto make room for a 25-unit, four-storey condominium project.

Opponents say it is too dense and too high for the area.

“We felt very much that that building, nice as it may be, would not be a good fit for that location,” said Hanny Pannekoek, a spokeswoman for Cordova Bay Vision, which was against the project.

The project would change the streetscape and pave the way for more high-density buildings, she said.

Twenty-four of the 28 people who spoke at the public hearing opposed the project.

Pannekoek was disappointed that the developer consulted only with immediate neighbours instead of the larger community.

Coun. Colin Plant was the lone voice on council in favour of the proposal.

“I don’t accept that four storeys is going to ruin this neighbourhood,” Plant said. “I don’t accept that this is going to result in all of Cordova Bay becoming condos.”

Mike Dalton of Citta Group could not be reached for comment. The developer will have to wait six months before bringing the proposal back to council.

Much of the opposition against the Doumac proposal was linked to concerns about a proposed development across the street at the Cordova Bay Plaza site. Plans there call for a four-storey mixed-used building that includes 91 condos and retail space for a bank and grocery store.

“Our main concern was that a four-storey building at [Doumac Avenue] would set a precedent for the rest of the development in the plaza,” Pannekoek said.

Coun. Fred Haynes acknowledged fears that approval of one large development would have a domino effect.

Alan Lowe, the architect behind the plaza development, said the two projects are very different and it’s not fair to link them.

Unlike the Doumac proposal, Lowe said, the development by James Gardiner Construction does not require rezoning or variances. The project will need a development permit, as a 1998 permit allowed for only 16 condos, which were never built.

The project meets the height limitation of 15 metres and exceeds the required setback along Cordova Bay Road, Lowe said.

“People in the area need to understand the difference between the two properties and what the allowable uses are already with one property versus another,” he said.

The plaza is almost empty following the closure of its main tenant, Tru Value Foods.

Lowe said there’s potential for a community hub that will revitalize the area.

While neither the condo units proposed for Doumac Avenue nor Cordova Bay Plaza are being billed as affordable housing, councillors accepted that it’s necessary to accept more high-density project to increase the available housing stock.

“Yes, we’re in a housing affordability crisis,” said Coun. Dean Murdock. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t take the time to ensure that whatever is approved is an appropriate fit in the long term.”

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