A second Public Hearing on Abstract Developments’ proposed development on 2580-2588 Penrhyn St. was held on January 28th at the Saanich Council Chambers.
The hearing began with a presentation by Mike Miller, owner of Abstract Developments, on the revisions made to the proposal to address concerns that had been expressed at the previous Public Hearing last December:
- A covenant to limit the use of the two commercial units to office, rather than retail or restaurant, to reduce the requirement for parking
- Reduction of the number of residential units from 16 to 14 (with commensurate reconfiguration and slight enlargement of some units)
- Implementation of shared parking arrangements, whereby condo owners can rent out their parking stalls during the day to commercial use, and commercial parking spaces revert to residential parking after office hours
- Provision of public transportation or carshare vouchers to residents
These changes result in a reduction of the requested parking variance from 19 in the previous proposal, to 8. In addition:
- Fewer balconies on the northern side of the building, and planting evergreen trees, to reduce light pollution and privacy infringement to northern neighbours
- Increased contribution to Affordable Housing Fund, from $6000 to $14,000
Finally, he read out a letter received that day from John Davits, owner-operator of Pepper’s Grocery, strongly in favour of the project.
Public input was then invited. Eighteen people spoke: twelve in favour of the project in its new iteration, six against.
Those in favour saw it as the kind of project that the Village needs, in that it allows elderly local residents to downsize from large homes to more manageable condos with easy access to the local shops, without having to leave the area; and that the parking problem is largely the result of Village employees parking on site, which can be resolved by other means.
Those against raised previously cited concerns of the project—in particular, that the project is too big (i.e., approximately four too many residential units) for the site; the danger of allowing a precedent of a variance inviting similar projects with the same variance, aggravating the parking problem still further; most units are too small and/or too expensive to serve as downsized accommodation for local residents.
Members of the council then weighed in. The overwhelming majority commended the developer for the changes made to the design which, in their view, addressed the key concerns that had previously been expressed, and for consulting local residents and businesses more thoroughly than before. Councillor Vic Derman proposed a motion that the project’s parking stalls be “decoupled” from the residential units, thereby reducing the prices of the units and potentially providing more parking spaces for commercial use, however, the motion was not seconded.
In the final vote, councillors voted 9-1 in favour of granting the rezoning and other applications necessary for a Developer Permit to be issued.