Calling it a project of importance to the Town of Sidney, local councillors are throwing their support behind the redevelopment for the former North Saanich Middle School site into a high-density residential area.
On the table is a proposal for 37 lots in a project called Harbour Landing. On Monday, April 14, council voted to change the property’s zoning designation in the official community plan from institutional (it used to be a school) to “intensive single-family residential.”
In addition, the municipality is creating a zone specific to the project, allowing higher density housing and the potential for additional secondary suites, carriage houses or two-family units.
While most councillors clearly support the project, they got an earful from a few nearby residents who are opposed.
“All of my windows face the development,” said Barbara Russell, who lives on White Birch Road next to the property.
She said that means a loss of privacy, a loss of views and a drop in her property value — as well as in increase in local traffic. Russell called on council to “have the balls” to stop the project, unless as she put it, it’s a “done deal.”
Other neighbours of the property complained on increased traffic and safety concerns should Harbour Landing proceed.
Dale Douglas, a spokesperson for the development company Resthaven Lands, said the project is one of a variety in the area that will take an estimated 10-years to reach full buildout. That means residents won’t face a massive impact from construction all at once, he said. Douglas said they plan to add a sidewalk to White Birch Road and additional visitor parking to help reduce traffic impacts.
“We feel it’ll be a great addition to the community,” he concluded.
Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey said the Town sent out 303 notices to neighbours of the property and received five written responses, mixed in their support for or against. He asserted that in general people seem supportive.
“I respect all of your concerns, I really do,” said Coun. Steve Price, but noted Sidney is experiencing a declining population, adding something must be done to stem the tide.
“The applicant has a nice residential development,” Price continued, adding he thought neighbours would have preferred its layout, rather than higher buildings. “It’s a pretty good compromise, I thought.”
Coun. Melissa Hailey said any change can be hard to adapt to “and causes stress.” she called the proposal “the best of the worst” suggestions for this site.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s the best one can get,” she said.
Coun. Marilyn Loveless repeated council’s assertion that the project is a compromise, adding she felt it’s being put forward by “a thoughtful and considerate” developer.
“What I do know is we need workforce housing in this community,” she said, adding council must do what it can to encourage diversity.
Coun. Tim Chad was the lone voice on council to vote against the rezoning and OCP changes. He said he did so to try to force the proposal back into the hands of staff and the developer to make sure it alleviates the concerns of the concerned neighbours.
A majority vote helped clear the way for the project to proceed. The developer will stall have to apply for development and building permits before any construction could begin.