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Residents ask B.C. court to review Saanich’s approval of Cordova Bay development

Saanich residents frustrated with council’s approval of a four-storey condo-retail development in Cordova Bay are seeking a judicial review in B.C. Supreme Court. Council voted 8-1 on Jan.

Saanich residents frustrated with council’s approval of a four-storey condo-retail development in Cordova Bay are seeking a judicial review in B.C. Supreme Court.

Council voted 8-1 on Jan. 29 in favour of approving a development permit for the mixed commercial and residential project, which includes three four-storey buildings. Only Mayor Richard Atwell voted against it.

The petition, filed March 27 by residents Derek Hopkins and Karl Doetsch, maintains the wrong set of rules was used in approving the new development at 5120 and 5144 Cordova Bay Rd. — resulting in it being four storeys rather than one or two.

Lawyer David Busch, who is representing Hopkins and Doetsch, said the zoning bylaws for the area and the official community plan — specifically appendix N, which deals with development permit areas — are in conflict.

The official community plan says new buildings in the area should not exceed 7.5 metres in height, Busch said. “It is our understanding of the law that the official community plan trumps zoning bylaws.”

If a judge finds the petitioners to be correct, council’s decision “doesn’t stand,” he said.

The District of Saanich is defending its position that the development permit was properly issued. Brent Reems, director of legal services for the municipality, and Atwell said they are unable to comment on the matter.

The petition also names the province and Alan Lowe Architect Ltd. as respondents.

The proposed development by Kang and Gill Construction includes three four-storey buildings with a grocery store, bank, pharmacy, coffee shop and possibly a medical clinic on the ground floor.

It will also include 91 condos and span 36,000 square feet over an underground parkade. It’s expected to take about three years to complete.

The site’s one-storey buildings have been demolished, including the Tru Value Foods grocery store, which closed last year.

The petitioners have not sought an injunction to stop the developers.

“We are still moving full steam ahead and we continue to work on the timeline we have set,” Lowe said. “I believe that council did the right thing and they took everything into consideration.”

Prior to the Jan. 29 committee meeting, chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson advised councillors “the application that’s before council this evening is for a form and character development permit. The property is zoned for the use and there are no variances [that] have been requested.”

Thorkelsson noted that the official community plan, including the general policies of the local area plan for Cordova Bay, and the development permit guidelines for form and character of the commercial development had been reviewed and considered.

Administrative staff at the meeting explained it had attributed “a certain weighting to all those policies and principles and concluded that four storey is something that is acceptable in that … the new 2008 OCP itself talked about what villages are and mentioned they could be between three and four storeys in height. That is our recommendation and the outcome of our review of all those applicable guidelines.”

Saanich Coun. Leif Wergeland, who lives in Cordova Bay, noted the area has undergone tremendous change over the past two decades, with small cottages replaced by larger homes, condos and townhouses.

The new development “might not be perfect, but we do have what many of us are looking for,” Wergeland said.

During the Jan. 29 committee of the whole meeting, the 53 people who spoke to councillors were about evenly split on the project.

Those against it were most concerned with traffic and height, as the village-like oceanside area is dominated by one-storey buildings.

The day after the meeting, Atwell acknowledged that the site needs to be redeveloped and said the concept is attractive, but that there was time “to address concerns of height at the street level.”

The petitioners’ lawyer is hopeful there will be a decision by the fall.