New homes planned for former school property

Developers propose small lots and affordable options

Developers of the former North Saanich Middle School site appeared to press all of the right buttons  for Sidney town council with their plans for the former North Saanich Middle School property.

Resthaven Lands Ltd., a joint company formed by the McAdams family, Focus Corp. and others, have proposed a 37-lot residential housing area called Harbour Landing and a new roundabout at the corner of Resthaven Drive and McDonald Park Road.

Dale Douglas of Focus led a presentation of preliminary plans to council on Monday, Oct. 21. He said they had been working with town staff and reviewing Sidney’s official community plan and other policies for the last five months.

“The idea was for the site to be in line with the vision of Sidney and line up with the marketplace as well,” Douglas said.

Most of the 37 small lots proposed will have room for affordable housing such as secondary suites, carriage homes and even the possibility of four duplexes.

“It will all be up to the buyers of each lot,” Douglas explained. “It will give a range of opportunities on the site.”

There’s no guarantee of affordable housing on the site at all, however, since that decision would be up to individual buyers. Mayor Larry Cross agreed that is the case but was hopeful homeowners would see the value in adding a mortgage-helper.

The early plans would see no resident parking or access to driveways from either McDonald Park Road, Resthaven Drive or White Birch Road. All of that would be via pedestrianized laneways within the property. Utilities like power and cable would be put underground and the owners would put up a portion of the cost for a new roundabout.

There are no prices attached as yet to the proposed homes. Undergrounding the utilities, Douglas said, is expensive and the company has to work out all of its costs.

The 4.5 acres of land was sold to Resthaven Lands Ltd. by the Saanich School District for $4.025 million.

Rob McAdams, representative of the ownership group in Harbour Landing, said he is excited about the project.

“The lane concept is new to me and fairly new to B.C.,” he said. “I see it as a giant sidewalk where cars are allowed to be.”

Councillor Steve Price, chair of the committee of the whole, said the proposal was “impressive and well done.”

“The neighbours will probably throw a party for the developers once they see this,” Price said.

Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey asked about impact of the project on local traffic. Douglas said while most vehicles and parking will be within Harbour Landing itself, additional parking areas could be created along Resthaven or McDonald Park roads to accommodate visitors.

“We are anticipating more (traffic), of course,” Douglas said, “but with a minimal impact due to traffic calming.”

Coun. Marilyn Loveless, perhaps in reference to past projects undertaken by the McAdams family such as a pair of nine storey buildings erected on the waterfront in Parksville, asked what brought the developers to this concept, rather than anything taller. Douglas said it came from focus groups and discussions with town staff.

“Lower seemed better for most residents,” he said. “We’ve really settled into something that will fit into the marketplace … and be a real asset for Sidney.”

Cross said the plan is innovative and noted the owners have done their homework on Sidney.

“You have obviously read our documents and understand what we are trying to do,” said the mayor.

Douglas said they plan on holding a neighbourhood meeting within three weeks. A rezoning process could take up to six months, after which the project could begin in earnest.

— with files from Devon MacKenzie