An 11-unit development is due to be built on the front half of this lot at 1950 John Rd. An application for a second 11-unit structure for the back section of the lot is being considered by the District of North Saanich.

Big-picture solution sought for John Road development

Land near new school promoted as suitable for high-density projects

Housing principles embodied in North Saanich’s official community plan will be touched on this week when a proposal for a second 11-unit building at 1950 John Rd. comes before the district’s advisory planning commission.

Developer Norm Isherwood has already received a permit to build a similar 11-unit housing development on the front half of the semi-vacant piece of property, located across from the new North Saanich middle school. He is asking council to approve the second building, a decision that would effectively double the density on the .4-hectare lot.

“This level of density was refused by the previous council,” Mayor Alice Finall said during discussions of the project at the Nov. 14 council meeting.

Her comment referred to the fact that a made-in-North Saanich plan designed to dovetail into the Capital Region’s Affordable Housing Strategy was largely opposed by the public in 2008. Residents told council the North Saanich housing plan was at odds with the freshly revisited official community plan, a scenario that prompted councillors to reject the proposal.

Isherwood’s project planner, Roger Tinney, did his best last week to justify the suitability of high-density development in the area. He pointed to such nearby amenities as Blue Heron Park, the proximity of middle and high schools and the potential for future commercial and retail development on an Isherwood-owned property at John and Macdonald Park Road.

The inclusion of a below market rate unit in the new development would also help toward the district’s affordable housing goals, he said.

However, councillors argued for the need to stick to the overarching housing and land-use criteria contained in the OCP.

Councillor Ruby Commandeur asked whether the community had met its objectives on affordable housing and if there was some way to measure that.

“I’m not convinced that density alone achieves that goal we’re trying to achieve,” she said, coming back to the proposal in question.

“I’d much rather we have a broad perspective of how we want this area to go,” added Councillor Peter Chandler.

“We need to keep to our commitment.”

Finall characterized any approval of the project as “spot rezoning” and said there were no assurances that young families would be able to afford to live in this or another development in the area.

Tinney said later the expected selling price of the below-market 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom unit incorporated into the design would be about $165,000.

The advisory planning commission is due to meet Nov. 24 and make its recommendations to the newly elected council.

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