Affordable housing at risk says architect

Architect for McDonald Park Estates calls development delay a “rezoning purgatory”

An architect with a firm looking to build 54 condominium units on McDonald Park Road in North Saanich says if the district continues on it current path, it will never get any affordable housing built.

Kyle Shick of Finlayson Bonet Architecture slammed North Saanich council on June 19, particularly Mayor Alice Finall and councillors he calls “obstructionist,” for what he says is an unreasonable amount of time taken to process their plans for three multi-storey buildings next to Parkland Secondary School. He has appeared twice before council this month, levelling charges of interference, intimidation and collusion against certain councillors and municipal staff in relation to what he feels are delays in approving the project.

Calling North Saanich a “rezoning purgatory,” Shick said it took two months to get the first response from staff after he submitted plans for the condos on April 30, 2012.

While he did say the application did progress, after about a year the district planner he was working with indicated they were close to a completed development agreement. That changed on June 7 of this year, he said, when the district’s Director of Planning, Mark Brodrick told him they wanted a new agreement as council was finishing its housing consultation and new amenities bylaw.

“The amenities contribution was originally going to be $400,000,” he said. “The new one came back at over $1.2 million. If you guys adopt that, you’ll never have an affordable development in North Saanich ever again.”

Finall says the McDonald Park Estates proposal — as are others seeking increased housing density in the district — is on hold.

“His application is waiting, upon council’s direction, for staff to complete the amenity policy,” Finall said.

As well, outside of a project planned for 9395 East Saanich Rd., Final said the Capital Regional District (CRD) is asking that North Saanich change its Regional Growth Strategy to reflect their pans to allow more residential development.

“Their application is for a multi-family unit not currently permitted in our official community plan (OCP) and zoning bylaws,” the mayor continued. “Those are extreme changes.”

Finall said there have been  “crush” of similar applications in the district and taking that into account, she doesn’t think Shick’s wait has been a long one.

Compounding the problem with processing the application, she said, is the fact the municipality’s planning department of four saw two people resign this month and the director recently take vacation time.

Finall took issue with Shick’s comments and accusations, especially his remark that there’s a “culture of fear” among some staff members.

“I’m just not sure what he means. The department is under extra stress and workload.”

An increase in development applications — an estimated 387 units are currently being proposed in the district — plus a constant stream of requests by council represents “a significant impact on staff time,” Finall said.

Shick appeared again at the June 24 council meeting, asking for a timeline on his application process. Finall said the director of planning is on vacation until early July and the one person left in the department is not up to speed on Shick’s proposal.

Chief administrative officer Rob Buchan said staff are working on a development permit but there are areas of disagreement between them and the developer.

“Staff will be seeking the direction of council on a variety of issues,” he said.