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Housing density boost in North Saanich gets mixed reviews
North Saanich made a move toward allowing higher density with the goal of more affordable housing.
Team North Saanich – councillors Conny McBride, Craig Mearns and Dunstan Browne – and Coun. Ted Daly voted Monday to ask staff to prepare documents needed to eventually amend the official community plan and zoning bylaws. Councillors Celia Stock and Elsie McMurphy, and Mayor Alice Finall voted against the move.
“There are areas in our municipality that can cope with these [higher densities] very easily without disturbing the rural concept of what we have here,” Browne said. “We can do it.”
Several representatives from the industrial park west of the Pat Bay Highway told council the single biggest challenge to their businesses’ success is the difficulty in finding and keeping skilled labour. Affordability is the key factor.
“Seventy-five per cent of our employees come from Langford,” said Greg Ramsay, owner, CEO and president of Ramsay Machine Works, and the fourth generation to run the business. “If we can’t maintain those people, we won’t have a fifth generation or a sixth generation.”
Robin Richardson of Scott Plastics has been vocal in the push to increase the stock of affordable or attainable workforce housing on the Peninsula. He said among 12 of the biggest industrial companies west of the Pat Bay, just 25 per cent of their employees live in North Saanich or Sidney.
“$75 million of payroll leaves the Peninsula every day. Think about the potential of impact a percentage of this could could have on North Saanich and Sidney businesses.”
McMurphy said increasing density won’t solve housing issues for employees and employers.
“Simply building housing doesn’t address, I think, the concerns of the business community and it doesn’t address the concerns of the people who want to age in place here in North Saanich. It’s simply increasing density,” she said.
McMurphy made a motion that along with Browne’s motion to move ahead with changing the zoning bylaw and OCP, staff prepare reports on potential arrangements with the Sidney and North Saanich business community that support the provisions of workforce housing.
It was defeated 4-3 in the same formula as the other vote, with Mearns, Browne and McBride said that information could be prepared in the future.
The three density recommendations before council come from a 2008 report. They were not approved by the council at the time.
• Smaller lot detached homes could be built on lots of at least 5,920 square feet; one-third could include secondary suites.
• Low density multi-unit housing could be built with 15 units per acre with entry to each unit being from ground level.
• Medium density multi-unit housing could have 24 units per acre; option for below-market pricing in 10 per cent of units.