Project seeks to add 95 homes

North Saanich asked to rezone property off of Canora Road

The divisions on North Saanich council when it comes to development applications continue to split the vote, with developers winning the benefit of the doubt.

A proposal for 95 new homes and provision for laneway or carriage houses near Reay Creek is being advanced to committees of council and to staff for the drafting of bylaw changes. The council majority of councillors Dunstan Browne, Ted Daly, Craig Mearns and Conny McBride again won the day over dissenters Mayor Alice Finall and councillors Celia Stock and Elsie McMurphy.

Owners of six properties between Canora Road and the Pat Bay Highway and next to Summergate Village, have applied to rezone their properties from rural agricultural 4 (farm plus single family home) to comprehensive development zone (specific zoning for this proposal). Their agent, Strongitharm Consulting Ltd., presented the plans at council’s Feb. 25 committee of the whole meeting.

Councillors raised the ongoing housing consultation process on residents’ desires for density change, as well as a lack of amenities and parking policies.

Those in the minority on council see these issues as needing to be resolved before council proceeds on such development plans.

A similar proposal put forward in 2004, revised in 2008, was denied at that time. With a different council dynamic, however, the owners have revived the plan and are facing a more receptive public body.

Homes in the proposed subdivision would cost around $425,000 and be built on lots smaller than typical ones in North Saanich.

Chief administrative officer Rob Buchan told council that an amenity policy is nearing completion and should come before council while this proposal is still in process. As it stands, the development is looking at paying $9,600 per lot as an amenity fee. Including water and server upgrades and other costs, total fees per lot will be around $27,000.

He also suggested allowing the district’s advisory committees to review the project, giving council more time to see how its housing consultation pans out.

“It moves (the proposal) along, while leaving council more neutral,” Buchan suggested.

While the district has no parking policy, the proponent of the plan told council they are making room for enough off-street parking at each house.

“It’s a super proposal,” said Browne. “It has everything council requires at the moment.”

Some eight-and-a-half per cent of the property in the proposal would be set aside as green space — some park areas, a rain garden and trail connections to Sidney’s Reay Creek Park.

Should the project win final approval from council, the proponent said it would still take up to two years before ground is broken on any construction.

Issue in common

Both Reay Creek Meadows at the proposed housing development at 9395 East Saanich Road face having to pay for sewer connections and system upgrades in the area. North Saanich’s chief administrative officer, Rob Buchan, said the municipality hired a consultant to look at the sewer requirements there and whether developers will have to work together on needed improvements.

“No project could continue until the infrastructure issues are worked out,” Buchan said.

The properties in question would have to either pay for an upgrade to the system and their own connections to it, or put in place a local service area that would have new homeowners paying for this work over the long term.

“The challenge is,” said the district’s director of planning Mark Brodrick, “if more than one developer is not interested in sewer improvements, a single developer might not wish to proceed without certainty (from council).”

Jim Hartshorne, developer of 9395 East Saanich Road, says the sewers in North Saanich pose a problem. He wondered if, in the wake on ongoing proposals, the system has enough capacity.

“I’m prepared to put sewer in,” he said, “but to proceed without other development proposals … is costly.”