Council inquiries about underground power lines, the number of electric vehicle charging stations and the prospects for installing a daycare will be addressed before a public hearing happens on the University Heights shopping centre redevelopment proposal. (Photo courtesy Wesbild Holdings Ltd.)

Saanich’s University Heights redevelopment may see changes before public hearing

Council wants more detail on underground power lines, EV charging stations, daycare flexibility

The largest multi-use development proposal in Saanich since Uptown is moving forward to public hearing, but not before council hears more details on three aspects of the plan.

The residential and commercial redevelopment of the southerly portion of the University Heights shopping centre lands includes plans for 598 new rental units in four six-storey buildings, including 60 units that would rent for 10 per cent below market rate for 20 years.

RELATED STORY: University Heights redevelopment plan includes 600 rental units, dog park

Developer Wesbild Holdings’ unwillingness to commit to put hydro lines underground along Cedar Hill Road, a move that would allow planting “large class” boulevard trees to soften the impact of a four-metre retaining wall, was the source of much council discussion on Monday night (Aug. 24).

While the developer indicated the projected cost of up to $1 million of undergrounding the lines was prohibitive, several councillors spoke to the importance of boulevard trees to help make the development neighbourhood friendly. However, Coun. Susan Brice wondered aloud whether forcing Wesbild to include such an element would see a reduction in other desirable aspects of the project, such as the affordable housing units.

Staff were instructed to provide council with “more refined cost information” on underground power lines in a report to be heard before the proposal goes to public hearing.

Also part of the pre-hearing report will be details on increasing the proposed 20 electric vehicle charging stations for the development, a total Coun. Colin Plant called “inadequate for 2020.”

Coun. Ned Taylor went a step further in describing that proposal.

“To put it bluntly, the proposed EV infrastructure in this project is quite pathetic. It’s extremely low and it’s concerning considering the size of the project and the impact the project will have on our community,” he said.

Taylor noted that the province has committed to having all new vehicles sold in B.C. by 2040 be electric, adding the district and council have similar priorities on the subject. “I hope that the proponent thinks about this.”

Added Coun. Judy Brownoff: “I think it would be unfortunate if this project which is trying to liven up housing and community was under-serviced for future use for electric vehicles.”

RELATED STORY: Saanich’s J. J. Morgan Restaurant to close after 32 years

The third request for more information came from Coun. Zac de Vries, who asked for flexibility around a covenant item that would restrict use of the second floor in one of the buildings to daycare. His concern was tying the proponent to that use if no operator could be found. Staff agreed to consult with the proponent on their prospects for doing so and report back.

No date was set for the public hearing, but the new information on the three items is expected to come back to council in September.


 

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