Small apartments, row houses part of plan for Gonzales area

Victoria’s least-dense neighbourhood would become a little more crowded under a draft plan.

0802-gonzales.jpgTownhouses and small apartments along Fairfield Road, row houses throughout the community and secondary suites in duplexes and small-lot houses are all part of the mix in the draft Gonzales neighbourhood plan.

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Coun. Chris Coleman, council liaison to the neighbourhood, said the plan also includes recommendations regarding alternative transportation, parks, ecological preservation, small commercial centres and heritage areas.

Coleman said the proposals for extra density might be contentious for some, and council will undoubtedly hear from those folks when it holds a public meeting on the proposals this fall.

“But I think the expectation in the [Official Community Plan] is that we would see increased density in all neighbourhoods,” he said.

City staff note that with about five per cent of the city’s population — 4,175 residents — Gonzales boasts the highest percentage of families with children (15 per cent), highest percentage of home ownership (70 per cent), a significant population over 65, the lowest density in the city and a rich inventory of heritage homes.

The new draft neighbourhood plan, built on the one done in 2003, which saw Gonzales become the city’s first neighbourhood to permit legal secondary suites, hopes to encourage more rental housing, more mortgage helpers and more affordable styles of housing, such as townhouses and row houses.

Coleman said taking on legal secondary suites was a bold move in its day, in part because off-street parking would not be a requirement.

He said the recommendations for secondary suites, townhouses and row houses are an extension of that type of “courageous” thinking.

“I’m under no illusion that it was unanimous from the committee that did the work, but these are interesting discussion points that we need to have out there,” Coleman said.

Key moves in the plan include improved walking and biking connections, better transit service, adding features to encourage social gathering in parks and indoor community space and designation of three proposed heritage-conservation areas.

It also includes development of a small urban village at the intersection of Fairfield Road, Lillian Road and Wildwood Avenue and improving Gonzales Beach facilities and access.

City planners have already undertaken neighbourhood consultation. More than 130 people have attended open houses, 112 have completed surveys and more than 80 attended living-room meetings hosted by neighbours.

Planners say support for the plan has been strong, with more than 80 per cent somewhat or very supportive, especially for the transportation, parks, ecosystem and social-gathering elements.

Some residents have expressed concern about the suitability of townhouses, height and density of new development, increased traffic and parking demand, and loss of character and green spaces.

Staff say support for heritage conservation has received strong support from the broader community, but mixed reviews from homeowners within the affected areas. Staff are analyzing feedback before bringing further recommendations to council.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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