Sidney housing project too dense, critics say

Opponents of densification in Sidney are expected to be out in force Monday at a public hearing on a rezoning application that proposes 17 dwellings on property zoned for 10 houses.

The ArdRest Neighbourhood Initiative has collected more than 500 signatures petitioning town council to keep the current zoning for “this particular special area” close to the Roberts Bay Bird Sanctuary, said group spokeswoman Christine Kollofrath, who lives nearby.

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“Sidney is losing its charm and we have to stop it,” Kollofrath said in a mail-out to supporters, adding the development is proposed “on the last larger green parcel in Sidney.”

The development of 13 houses and two duplexes is proposed for two properties at 2248 Ardwell Ave. and 10364 Resthaven Dr. The existing dwelling on Ardwell would be retained on the land, owned by Murray and Liz Inkster. The properties, which total 2.14 acres, have been in the family for decades.

Sidney Mayor Steve Price said there are many issues to consider on both sides of the equation, but said the Sidney is not really engaged in intensification but catch-up after development stopped in its tracks after the 2008 global financial meltdown.

“What’s happened in the last year and a half is all that pent-up demand has, of course, come back. I think the community just isn’t used to seeing as much activity as was really quite normal for years and years and years prior to 2008,” Price said.

There have been far fewer rezonings and changes to the Official Community Plan since he joined council in 2008 than in the decade from 1996-2007, Price said. In the first period, there were 120 zoning amendments and 37 amendments to the OCP, compared with 30 zoning and about nine OCP amendments in the past seven or eight years.

“We’ve been far more conservative than anybody,” Price said.

He suggested the potential loss of a Garry oak with a large canopy was the motivating factor for many people who signed the petition. The tree will not only be saved, but is proposed as the centrepiece of a compact park — something Price called “a pretty huge concession on the part of the developer.”

Revisions to the initial proposal decrease lot coverage to 50 per cent from 75 per cent and increase setbacks to three metres from 1.2 metres.

Kollofrath described the result as more houses with little parking and green space: “No variety, diversity and individuality. More or less same small lot sizes and similar house types. Certainly not in character and context with the neighbourhood.”

Price said the proposal gives the town control over the style and colour of the houses. The current zoning, which would allow 10 single-family houses, would give Sidney no say in their appearance and each of the 10 could have a secondary suite, boosting the number of households to 20. All would use one small roadway, Simister Place, making for major parking and traffic problems, he said, while the proposal includes roadway expansion.

The subdivision would also result in dozens of Douglas firs being cut. However, a arborist report says many of the trees are in advanced stages of decline.

At one point, there were 64 protected trees — 62 Douglas firs, a Garry oak and an arbutus — along with other trees not protected under the Sidney tree bylaw. All told, only seven protected firs and some other non-protected trees around the existing dwelling at 2248 Ardwell Ave. are likely to remain.

Price said council will decide what to do after the hearing, even it goes all night.

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