A six-month wait, in the grand scheme of things, was not a long time for the developer of a proposed five-storey building in downtown Sidney.
On Monday night town council approved the building, which would see commercial space on the ground floor and 28 multi-family residential units above. Council passed two bylaw amendments, one to allow bonus density and the other to relax its downtown/waterfront local area plan regulations, which limits building heights to four storeys away from streets on the north side of Beacon Avenue.
Located on Third Street, where the former McLarty Furniture store is located, the proposed height had raised the ire of neighbours in the Stone’s Throw building, as well as from other citizens worried about it’s impact on downtown character.
Floyd Johnson, a resident of Stone’s Throw, said the building is a good idea and has good points, but the height is just too much. He also pointed to the town’s own plans for a central square of public space in the area in the future. Johnson said the building threatens that.
“Sidney has a wonderful plan,” said Johnson, “but you seem to be pushing it under the carpet and we wonder why.”
He also expressed concern over the loss of his view of the Malahat and Dean Park.
Other speakers noted the structure will help vary Sidney’s downtown skyline and add much-needed residential units to the area.
Robert Pearce of Pelorus Development Corp. said he heard those concerns throughout the application process and designs changes were made, from stepping back the upper storeys to create better setbacks, adding greenery and providing a right-of-way on the west side of the property for the town’s use.
The design is now set, he said, adding the owners now have to meet obligations it made to the town — including contributing two of the residential suites to the Capital Regional District’s housing authority. Those will be made affordable units for families with lower income.
Councillor Marilyn Loveless said she wanted Johnson to know that he has been heard. She added, however, council has to make decisions in the best interests of the community. In this case, she said the idea is to get more people living downtown, in more affordable housing.
“We have to remember who we are here to serve,” Loveless said.
Other councillors said while the building isn’t perfect in its design, it’s still a good fit for Sidney.
“The only constant is change,” added Coun. Melissa Hailey, adding she once heard that Sidney at one time was likened to a mullet (the hairstyle).
“Sidney has trimmed off the party in the back and gotten a little more business-like and grey.”
The building does not yet have a name, Pearce confirmed, and hopes construction will begin by late spring or early summer, 2013. He estimated it would be complete 12 to 14 months later.