North Saanich tackles dense housing projects

Two multi-density housing developments one step closer to becoming realized

Two multi-density housing developments are one step closer to becoming realized in North Saanich.

A proposed development at 1950 John Rd., which had been approved by the previous council in 2011 and then retracted by the developer, got the go-ahead on Aug. 20 to move to the planning and public consultation processes.

A planned development at 9395 East Saanich Rd., which council, at the same meeting, unanimously agreed needed another look by staff, will come back to council, likely at their next meeting, Coun. Celia Stock said.

“Staff will come back to us with recommendations on the topics of the final plans for the project and the amenity contribution plan,” Stock said.

“Presumably the developer will also provide a new plan and [will] have also moved ahead with a time and date to meet with residents,” she said, noting council had not been provided an up-to-date plan on what the John Road development would look like after the developer changed the plan from one 11-unit building to two 11-unit buildings.

Talk of multi-density housing and workplace housing in North Saanich have been heating up the council chambers since early 2012 and have not yet been resolved.

The issue of workplace housing was raised by several local industries in West Sidney earlier this year. Representatives from the industrial park, including Ramsay Machine Works and Scott Plastics, told council the single biggest challenge to their businesses’ success is the difficulty in finding and keeping skilled labour.

Affordability is the key factor, said Robin Richardson of Scott Plastics, who is keen to increase the stock of affordable or attainable workforce housing on the Peninsula. Richardson said among 12 of the biggest industrial companies west of the Pat Bay, just 25 per cent of their employees live in North Saanich or Sidney.

“Seventy-five million dollars of payroll leaves the Peninsula every day. Think about the potential of impact a percentage of this could have on North Saanich and Sidney businesses,” he said in a earlier interview with the Peninsula News Review.

One of the main stumbling blocks for council to allow for more multi-density developments that would sustain industry workers, like the developments proposed on John and East Saanich roads, is the lack of an official amenity contribution plan for such developments, Stock explained.

“The issue in North Saanich is that we’ve never really had any reason to look at amenity contribution plans for multi-density developments because we haven’t really had any applications to build them,” she said. “What we need is a policy that would be flexible to the needs of North Saanich.”

In municipalities like Langford and Colwood, set amenity plans help the town work with developers to ensure certain needs are met when a development is built. Common amenity plans include things like dedicated green or community space within a development, units within the development being set aside as affordable housing or cash-in-lieu to the municipality.

In North Saanich, it is likely that an amenity plan would include stipulations on the affordability of a portion of the multi-density units in order to ensure they were kept as affordable housing, Stock said.

North Saanich council meets next on Sept. 10.