The changing face of Cordova Bay

Residents of Cordova Bay are wondering if their community is at a kind of crossroads, with several developments in the works to add more than 450 residential housing units.

Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff said the community “is feeling that all of this development is hitting them all at once,” with some residents worried about changes that could occur.

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“There is a grave concern about traffic, noise, speeding and growing congestion on Cordova Bay Road,” longtime resident Jessica Ball told council.

Ball and several other residents conveyed concern to council about the smallest of the developments — a proposal to put 25 condos at 986 and 990 Doumac Ave., now occupied by two 1950s houses.

The project’s proposed height of four storeys — down from five — is “excessive,” said resident Sharon Darroch. “I am concerned where the atmosphere of the village is going.”

The Doumac development is one of four either being considered or proceeding in the area. Across the street, plans are afoot to redevelop the Cordova Bay Plaza, more than doubling the size of the grocery store and adding dozens of condos.

Easily a thousand or more people could end up residing a few blocks north at the one-time Trio Ready-Mix gravel pit, where Aragon Properties Ltd. of Vancouver plans to build 309 homes. A stone’s throw from that, Sayward Hill is heading into its final phase, an eight-storey condominium in a community dominated by single or two-storey homes.

Together, the Doumac project and plaza developments sound like a recipe to make “our gorgeous area [look] like the downtown west end of Vancouver,” Cordova Bay resident Sharlene Shore wrote to council. Shore said she has always considered “our little village comparable to a little village [of Cassis] in the south of France.”

Cordova Bay village has long been a hub for locals and summer visitors, but the fairy-tale allure of tourist favourite Fable Cottage is long gone, barged to Denman Island in 1993, and modest beachfront houses continue to be replaced by large upscale houses, running, in the case of one recent sale, to nearly $3 million.

A report to council notes the lack of a full range of services in the village area contributed to the development of Mattick’s Farm, a retail, housing and tourist draw about 800 metres to the north.

Coun. Colin Plant said Saanich must work with the neighbours, developers and the community association to find “a sensible combination of development and measures to preserve the charm and character of Cordova Bay.”

Those charms include a meandering road between Claremont Ridge and the oceanfront, beach access and single-family homes on the shore side, a “small village feel,” along with plenty of green space and the absence of large commercial areas, fast food outlets or even a gas station.

“I am aware of the need for more housing in this area to address a variety of needs (seniors, young families, workers), but we must also look at transportation, the environment and community improvements when these projects are considered,” Plant said in an email.

Mike Dalton of Citta Construction sees the Doumac project as “the beginning of a revitalization of the neighbourhood.”

“There needs to be a small increase in the density in the immediate surroundings of the village if you want to create a village node,” he said.

“Cordova Bay has the potential to be more than it is right now. Right now, it’s so easy to drive right by.”

The projects

Sayward Hill

Address: 5388 Hill Rise Terr.

Type: Residential

Size: 46 condominiums in an eight-storey building

Status: Approved by council

The fourth and final phase of Sayward Hill, around the bend north of the village, is an eight-storey, 46-unit condominium building atop the ridge. The development already has 156 units.

Karen Jawl of Jawl Properties Ltd. said she is not sure if it’s the highest building in the village area, “but I would suspect so.”

“We have a development permit from Saanich, so it is approved,” she said.

Sales will likely commence early in 2017, with construction planned to start in January 2018.

The units will be large, typically 1,900 square feet with two bedrooms, a media room and an office or flex room. At completion, Sayward Hill will include 202 residential units.

Former Trio Ready-Mix gravel pit

Address: The site is bordered by Alderley, Fowler and Cordova Bay roads

Type: Mixed-use housing development

Size: 309 homes

Status: Planning

Two decades of discussion to turn the former Trio Ready-Mix Ltd. gravel pit lands into housing continue.

Aragon Properties of Vancouver bought the site in December 2014 from the McLaren family, which last mined gravel there in the early 2000s. Aragon is seeking a new comprehensive development zone from Saanich for the 26-acre site for a downsized mixed-use housing development.

“Aragon listened to the residents’ concerns regarding high density and in August 2016 presented a new plan reducing the number of homes from 385 to 309,” said Ameet Johal, director of sales and marketing.

The decrease in density was applied to the condos and townhomes, which were replaced with single-family homes.

The community would mix single-family and attached houses, row houses, condominium apartments and clusters in walkable neighbourhoods, Johal said. The development is in the rezoning stages of approval.

A fourth public information meeting will be held in January to address concerns taken from a Nov. 5 meeting, which she said drew “overwhelming attendance.”

Cordova Bay Plaza

Address: 5124 Cordova Bay Rd.

Type: Mixed-use redevelopment

Size: 37,000 square feet of retail and 85 condos in three buildings

Status: Applying for permit soon

A 17,000-square-foot grocery store space is planned, with three storeys of condominiums on top. A total of 42 units offering between 800 and 1,200 square feet would go in that building, said architect Alan Lowe.

Another four-storey building would go up on the south part of the site, he said. It would have about 15,000 square feet of retail space and 37 condos.

A smaller building with about 5,000 square feet of ground floor commercial, with six condos on top, is planned for the northeast corner of the site.

Lowe said they plan to apply for a development permit in the coming weeks.

Lowe said the development would have a “West Coast style” with wood elements and rock features with river rock used in the landscaping. “It’ll be a little like bringing the beach to the village.”

The centre, built in 1960, is tired, he said. “We’re hoping to make it vibrant again.”

Doumac Avenue

Address: 986, 990 Doumac Ave.

Type: Residential

Size: 25 condominiums in a four-storey building

Status: Going to public hearing

Council voted to send the 25-unit condo project with underground parking to public hearing.

It complies with the local area plan and is supported by the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs and the district’s advisory design panel.

Local resident Anthony Rose worried in a submission to council that allowing 25 units on two single lots would set “a disturbing precedent for development in the Cordova Bay area,” with other developers also wishing to maximize site coverage.

The lots are adjacent to a corner property owned by the same person. The corner lot once housed a service station.

Coun. Vic Derman noted how “tight” the Doumac proposal is, with just an eight-foot setback at the front. “What kind of village results if we do this kind of development?” he asked

Dalton, the project’s proponent, said he has heard from many people hoping to get on its reservation list, adding that condos in the centre of the community are a way for residents to continue to live in the area as they age and want to leave single-family homes.

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