Questions on how many units would be built at 9395 East Saanich Road in North Saanich had the developer coming and going at a recent council meeting.
On Nov. 19, Gary Lunn, the developer touting a single family housing project at that location, presented a letter to district council, suggesting laneway suites or houses be dropped. That would limit his development to 40 units. Council and district staff have bandied about estimates of 40 up to 80 units, based both on eventual zoning of the property and the so-called affordable housing options built into the project.
However, he would later drop that idea and withdraw the letter, after council’s reaction that night and the potential for further delays as a result.
Lunn, who is a partner with Jim Hartshorne in Sanpan Properties, told council their intent was to build only the 40 units and include an option to add 10 secondary suites or laneway houses — deemed affordable housing. He suggested to make things simple for council, eliminate the possibility of laneway housing and keep it at the 40 houses.
“We keep coming back with changes,” he said, addressing recent council comments that plans have not been clear and staff suggestions that there could be more units than planned.
“(Changes to the plans) have been done to meet the suggestions and requests of council, to accommodate the spirit of what’s coming out of council,” Lunn continued. “The very first plan was for 40 units and it hasn’t changed.”
Councillor Dunstan Browne said the developers have been accommodating of the municipality in this process, adding he still feels it’s useful to retain the capacity for secondary suites on the property.
Coun. Conny McBride added the proposal was never for 80 units, referring to recent staff estimates on the potential number of new houses that could be built after rezoning in a variety of areas in the district.
Mayor Alice Finall said she felt the development proposal has been rushed and there hasn’t been proper consultation with the public on the over-arching issues of council’s direction on housing, density and affordable or workforce housing.
“I don’t think we’ve had that talk with our community,” she said.
Coun. Ted Daly has his fundamental reason for this ongoing dispute between himself and the mayor, is that council, in his view, does hear from the public on development proposals. He said a North Saanich housing needs assessment done in 2007 and a housing strategy that pointed out the need for affordable housing, constituted public consultation.
Daly asked district planner Mark Brodrick what would happen if council agreed to withdraw affordable housing options in this case. Brodrick replied that since the proposed zoning bylaw changes have already seen first and second readings by council, a change at this point would erase much of the work done to date and force council back to square one. That could mean, he said, at least another six months.
“I’m loathe to refer this to staff and start this whole process again,” Daly said.
Coun. Craig Mearns agreed, noting that the district should enter into an agreement with the developers that the 40 units and no more than 10 affordable housing units could be built on the site.
Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan said that could be done through a restrictive convenant, setting the maximum number of units into the regulation. Daly said based on that, he could better support the issue.
Having heard the potential for delays if his idea to withdraw the affordable housing competent, Lunn stood before council and withdrew the letter.
“I only wanted to bring the numbers (of units) in line and didn’t want to cause more paperwork,” he said. “I’d rather just withdraw the letter and soldier on.”
Despite that, Finall recommended that council forward his letter to staff for review, with the understanding that Lunn has changed his mind. Daly agreed on this course of action, adding that staff need to speak with the developers about their options on the restrictive covenant, without affecting the timeline.
Councillors ease up on staff report
The tone from councillors Ted Daly and Dunstan Browne over a recent report on development potential from planner Mark Brodrick, eased considerably at their Nov. 19 meeting.
Both councillors had been openly critical of Brodrick’s report — which presented estimates of potential housing development in the District of North Saanich over the next few years. The report indicated that if projects on the books now — and ones to come later — were approved, their buildout would exceed the district’s 20-year average by 2026. At the time of Brodrick’s report (Nov. 5), both Daly and Browne were critical of the report, saying Brodrick had used the highest estimates and was only guessing at what might transpire.
On Nov. 19, their tone was more subdued. Daly said he was disappointed with the tone of the Peninsula News Review article on the subject. He added, however, he wanted to make it clear that “in no way with my questions was I suggesting anything about (Brodrick’s) report.”
Coun. Dunstan Browne clarified his remarks, saying he only wanted to know where Brodrick got his numbers, as opposed to what’s actually before council for consideration right now. He said he’s still of the opinion that council deal only with the development proposals currently before council.