Saanich votes to send University Heights plan to public hearing

Saanich council has voted to send the redevelopment plan for the University Heights shopping centre to public hearing, but it wants some issues resolved first.

Landowner Wesbild Holdings Ltd. hopes to redevelop the southern 2.6 hectares of the site at McKenzie Avenue, Shelbourne Street and Cedar Hill Road for a mixed of commercial and residential uses.

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A total of four, six-storey buildings would go up. Plans call for 598 rental units and 19,096 square metres of new commercial space. A six-metre-wide pedestrian and cycling connector is proposed to link Arrow Road through to Shelbourne Street.

There are some sticking points, though. The municipality is keen to see underground utility lines installed along the Cedar Hill Road side of the project but the developer has indicated an unwillingness to do so because the cost could reach $1 million, council heard. Council would like to see “significant trees” in this project and if above-ground wiring is used then those trees could be pruned by B.C. Hydro, Coun. Judy Brownoff said.

Another issue is Wesbild’s proposal to put in 20 electrical vehicle charging stations. Some council members said they want that number increased. Saanich earlier voted to require every new residential unit to have a line which could be used for an EV charger, Coun. Colin Plant said.

The third issue concerns a planned day-care on the second floor in one of the buildings. The applicant is concerned about the implications for that level if a day care operator can not be found, Plant said.

The aim is to iron out these issues prior to a public hearing. No date has been set.

The plan includes $500,000 from Wesbild to Saanich’s affordable housing fund. Contributions anticipated from the development would total $1.56 million, municipal staff said in a report.

The residential component of the project would include micro units, studios, one bedroom, one bedroom and den, two bedroom and three bedroom units. All would be designated as rental in perpetuity. Ten per cent would be offered at 10 per cent below market value.

Home Depot would remain in place. The project does not include the service station at Shelbourne Street and McKenzie Avenue.

The Gordon Head Residents’ Association supported the additional below-grade parking but expressed concerns about the loss of commercial floor space and parking, the staff report said.

Although the Mount Tolmie Community Association said it had no objections, it recommended a hotel be considered on the property. It also expressed a desire for more three-bedroom units and is concerned about pedestrian safety.

The Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association had traffic concerns, saying parking and congestion may overflow into nearby residential streets and that traffic may back up along Cedar Hill Road. Members also said 20 EV charging stations for 399 residential parking spaces is inadequate.

Plans would see 150 trees removed from the site, many of which are small, the staff report said. They would be replaced by 262 new trees and $5,000 would go to the Saanich tree replacement fund.

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