At last night’s Public Hearing by Saanich Council on Abstract Developments’ proposal for 2580-2588 Penrhyn St., developer Mike Miller presented updated versions of the design, emphasizing the improved boulevard landscaping in front of the building (including three mature trees), and explained how they had reduced the variance that they had requested from 56 to 39, by agreeing to make only one of the two commercial units into a restaurant, adding three spaces in front of the property. He also suggested that the estimated 100 spaces in Gyro Park might serve to alleviate the parking problem.
When input was invited from the public, twelve individuals from the community (including three directors of the board) spoke. All, without exception, expressed grave concern at the great disparity between the number of parking stalls required under the Zoning Bylaw for a building with 16 residential units and two commercial ones (39), and the number being offered by the developer (20) – nearly 50% variance.
Resident Eric Daly pointed out that previous developments – including the existing condo development – were obliged to comply fully with the bylaw on this point, as are longstanding businesses such as the Smugglers Arms pub.
Resident Dwight Waring pointed out that if the development is approved as it stands, others would follow on either side of the site (including the present Starbucks), leading to Penrhyn St. changing within a few years into a row of three-storey modernist blocks all the way down to the park.
Several residents pointed out that the units – ranging between 650 and 900 sq. ft – were too small, even for retired people seeking to downsize.
Paul Cooper, owner of the gas station, made many cogent arguments, pointing out that the “development should fit the site – not the site to the development."
Another comment made was that the board and many in the community are in favour of densification of the village, the introduction of mixed-use buildings, and even three-storey ones, it is vital that it be done right and large variances not granted, or these would set precedents that could derail the densification of the village as a whole.
Councillors listened, and voted overwhelmingly in favour of "adjourning” the project so that the developer come back with a revised proposal that combines the good aspects (mixed-use, densification), but without a significant variance. As the mayor said, “If it comes to that, I’d rather see four townhouses with no commercial ground floor than three storey buildings with commercial units stretching all the way down Penrhyn.”