Couns. Plant and Chambers ended the June 15 public hearing on the 242-unit Doral Forest Park with some very pertinent questions to Saanich staff. While their line of questioning appeared quite dissimilar on the surface, they were actually asking the same question in different ways.
“Will this proposed development yield a net cost or benefit to the Royal Oak neighbourhood and Saanich taxpayers?”
Coun. Chambers enquired whether staff recommend rejecting the project, in part, because the community amenity contributions offered are insufficient to justify the extremely high density bonusing requested by the applicant, and the answer was yes. The $2,900 per unit being offered is actually below the current standard of $3,000 to $5,000 per unit. Additionally, no analysis has been done to objectively determine an appropriate amount, as is now required in Saanich for the type of development contemplated.
Coun. Plant asked staff to explain the reasons why they support the applicant-sponsored traffic impact study, which was followed by a long pause and a brief, unintelligible response. To the surprise of Saanich staff, who appear to have rubber-stamped the report, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) disagrees, and most importantly, maintains that the proposed development will contribute to traffic gridlock, already near capacity adjacent intersections.
MoTI also outlined that Saanich taxpayers would be on the hook for intersection upgrades as a result of high-density developments such as Doral. This is likely to easily surpass the $20,000 contribution that the applicant has offered toward the Viewmont Avenue bikeway.
There is an additional complicating factor noted in the MoTI memo, in that the provision of emergency services at the soon-to-be-expanded Fire Station No. 2 (which will require an intersection reconfiguration itself) could be jeopardized, as well as the continued safe and efficient operation of BC Transit’s Royal Oak exchange. These potentially substantive impacts dismayingly appear to not even have been considered, let alone quantified.
And so, how can our elected decision-makers responsibly decide the fate of the Doral concept when so much crucial information is lacking? If the line of questioning by the councillors is any indication, thankfully they appear poised to make a decision that is in the best interest of Royal Oak and Saanich.