Central Saanich residents see pluses, minuses in planned housing development

Greater Victoria Housing Society planning 40 affordable units on land occupied for heritage house.

From left Lloyd and his wife Rosemary Walters are joined by Lorraine Butler to try and stop the proposed development on the site of the Francis Verdier House’s lot in the background.

A proposed development at 7247 West Saanich Road could see 40 units of affordable rental housing.

Proposing the development are the Greater Victoria Housing Society (GVHS), who would own and operate a four-storey apartment building, and development company Metropolitan Capital Partners.

On Tuesday night the District of Central Saanich heard from the applicants and residents who voiced both their concerns for the project and their enthusiasm.

The plans calls for the 40 affordable rental housing units, six townhouses and the relocation, renovation and repurposing of the Francis Verdier House. The historic home will be used for six to eight rental apartments.

“It’s unique in the sense that its one of only a few properties in Central Saanich of its size in the urban containment boundary that allows increased density, and in this case to create affordable housing,” said Matt Peulen, Metropolitan’s vice-president of development.

The affordable housing component comes from a recent $300 million housing fund that was announced by the provincial government to help create affordable housing in the province.

Of that, $3 million was award to the GVHS toward the proposed project.

One of the public concerns Tuesday night was moving the house, which was built in 1913 by the Francis Verdier family.

This would see the applicants enter into a revitalization agreement with Central Saanich to relocate it and preserve the exterior and heritage components of the house. They are also proposing a housing agreement with the District to ensure the six to eight rental units, stay as rentals.

The proposal is not without its detractors, however. Lloyd and Rosemary Walters have been residents on Dignan Road for 58 years. They bought their property from Edna Dignan, the granddaughter of Etienne Verdier. Their main concern is with moving the house and the chance the work might destroy Douglas fir trees.

“We are not against affordable housing … but this is a phoney issue because this is going to provide affordable housing in properties so small they will only be dealing with one person at a time,” said Lloyd.

He said the design of the building is also out of character with the surrounding community. If the development were to go forward, the building would encroach upon their entire back fence.

“We will not see our sunsets, we will not see snow falling on the old house in the trees, making it look like a living Christmas card, we won’t see that anymore,” he said.

Others at the public hearing supported the project, suggesting it will boost the local economy and provide affordable housing.

“The proposal before you this evening is very interesting and I’m enthusiastic about it. We all know the merits of being able to get affordable housing and the need for it,” said John Tidman, business owner and landlord in Brentwood Bay.

He said he’s always been a proponent of the recent philosophy adopted in Central Saanich that supported increased density in core areas of the municipality.

“I believe significant density in Saanichton, Keating and in Brentwood Bay affords the opportunity to protect the agricultural land. It increases the population in those areas and of interest to me as a landlord, it supports the commercial tenants who have businesses in our community,” he said.

Central Saanich will be considering the proposal under five bylaws; their Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment bylaw, a land use bylaw amendment, a heritage revitalization agreement bylaw and two housing agreement bylaws. A development variance permit is also being considered.

The District will consider third reading — which would advance the plan further — at their Dec. 19 regular council meeting.