Latest News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Council roundup: Refugee housing, short-term rentals, and tree protection

Here’s what is happening at local councils this week

Latest News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Council roundup: Refugee housing, short-term rentals, and tree protection

Here’s what is happening at local councils this week

Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Latest News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Council roundup: Refugee housing, short-term rentals, and tree protection

Here’s what is happening at local councils this week

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Council roundup: Refugee housing, short-term rentals, and tree protection
Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

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Saanich council: New fire hall approved

Saanich will be building a new fire hall to replace fire hall #2 after approving a rezoning application last Tuesday. The new fire hall on Viewmont and Elk Lake Drive will have two storeys and five truck bays, and will host the primary training centre for the district’s firefighters. The current hall, built in 1978, no longer meets the region’s needs and is not seismically sound. The $26.6M in funding needed for this project was approved in 2019.

Saanich’s rendering of fire hall’s rear apron, from plans by hcma architecture + design

Possible drainage system exemptions for garden suites

At last week’s committee of the whole meeting, council directed staff to look into a new framework to allow garden suites to use on-site stormwater disposal systems in cases where lots aren’t connected to the municipal drain. In Saanich, approximately 2,000 residential properties are not connected to the municipal drainage system. Unconnected property owners who want to build a garden suite currently either have to apply for a variance, which can be a timely process, or pay a large amount of money to connect their property.

Mayor Fred Haynes cited a case where a family was looking to add an extension to their home to allow them to age in place. The extension would require them to connect to the existing pipe drain service for a cost of "north of $250,000." 

While on-site systems do have capacity limits and require regular inspection and maintenance, they could also potentially offset future municipal infrastructure capacity requirements. Staff is expected to report back to council with recommendations in early 2023.

Townhome development approved at 630 Gorge Road W

Following a public hearing last Tuesday, council voted 7-2 in favour of moving forward. Judy Brownoff and Nathalie Chambers each voted against the proposal, citing concerns about the loss of bylaw-protected trees. Four mature Garry oaks and one red cedar would have to be removed for the five-building development.

The proposal will include five three-storey buildings with a total of 25 units. Included are 39 parking spaces, and an electrical vehicle plug-in will be installed in each garage. 

By Jolene Rudisuela

Rendering of townhouses as seen from Gorge Road W, from plans by Steller Architectural Consulting

Oak Bay council: Refugee housing for district-owned homes

In May, Oak Bay invited organizations to pitch potential uses for two district-owned homes: A two-bedroom house on Hampshire Road and a six-bedroom house on Monterey Avenue. The homes were previously run by the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society.

On Monday, the Community Association of Oak Bay, the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, and the Greater Victoria Housing Society told council it would be collaborating to operate the homes for refugees.

Motion bans short-term rentals in principal residences

Also on Monday, Oak Bay council proceeded with a motion prohibiting homeowners from using their principal residence as a short-term rental (STR). Read more details in last week’s Oak Bay Local.

By Ryan Hook

Victoria council: New neighbourhood plans, and Missing Middle sent to hearing

Council amended the Official Community Plan and adopted new neighbourhood plans for Fernwood, Hillside-Quadra, and North Park, replacing plans that date back to the mid-90s.

Council also gave introductory readings of four Missing Middle Housing Initiative bylaws—including a new one that defines affordability standards—advancing the initiative to a public hearing set for Aug. 4. Efforts by Coun. Ben Isitt to push the hearing into November, and then September, failed.

Read our 2021 feature on local zoning and density for more background on the Missing Middle plan and the housing issues it is intended to address.

Government Street redesign plan takes a step forward

The plan was advanced by council following a presentation by staff to the Committee of the Whole last Thursday. More on that in Sunday’s newsletter.

Request for BC-wide sexualized violence prevention in restaurants

Also on Thursday, council requested that Mayor Lisa Helps write to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Parliamentary Secretary Grace Lore to advocate for the inclusion of sexualized violence prevention training in BC’s Serve It Right curriculum. Serve It Right is a mandatory course for people involved in liquor sales and service in BC; its curriculum already includes physical violence education.

“While we recognize alcohol consumption is not the cause of sexualized violence,” Jeremy Loveday and Sarah Potts wrote to their fellow councillors last month, recommending the mayor’s advocacy, “we know there is a correlation between the service of alcohol and increased incidences of violence, including sexualized violence.”

There has been an increased spotlight on sexual harassment and violence in Victoria’s bar and restaurant industry following a reckoning in 2021 sparked by multiple allegations and eventually charges.

By Tori Marlan

Esquimalt council: Public consultation on parking strategy

Tomorrow at 7pm the Advisory Planning Commission will discuss updating the municipality’s parking bylaw and draft a new public parking strategy that takes into account the need for electric vehicle charging, and bicycle and accessible parking.

Residents have until July 24 to fill out this survey to guide the commission. There will also be a virtual info session tomorrow. There have been 203 responses thus far, which highlight residents’ support for expanding time restrictions, expanding resident-only parking, and creating more accessible parking and EV locations.

Apartment development moves to public hearing

Council unanimously voted to move forward to public hearing  a rezoning application for a six-storey at 861 and 863 Esquimalt. The strata condo development proposal has 43 units (23 one-beds, 12 two-beds, 8 three-beds).

Crestview Residences on Esquimalt Road. Rendering from 2021 by MTa

“We’re doing that with a view to [be] family-oriented, because when people talk about housing supply and the lack thereof in a housing crisis, people flocked to affordability and that isn’t the single-family residence—that is going to be the condominium product,” said developer Mathew McLash during his presentation.

McLash Development Ltd had previously reduced the number of proposed units from 60 to 43 after several rounds of public consultation, following neighbours’ concerns about limited parking.

By Brishti Basu

Last week Victoria and Esquimalt councils also had consultations with VicPD on priorities for the police budget.

Westshore councils roundup: Land use, transportation, and housing

Highlands council: Secondary suite bylaw debates

In a letter to council, the Sustainable Land Use Select Committee suggested that the bylaw will "promote growth" and "change the very nature of the Highlands". While understanding the need for housing, the committee raised concerns about groundwater impacts from new homes, loss of biodiversity, and increased traffic in the region. The bylaw will be read at the July 18 council meeting, and a public hearing is going to be held Sept. 6.

Metchosin council: Crime noticeably down

According to the Westshore RCMP’s quarterly report, crime was down in Metchosin by 37% in the first quarter over last year. There were 161 files opened, compared to 254 at the same time last year. Only three types of police file increased: There were three more wellbeing checks, two more liquor related files, and one more theft from a motor vehicle.

Sooke council: OCP draft faces decision day

A meeting tomorrow at 5pm will give council an opportunity to adjust and advance the proposed new Official Community Plan (OCP) this term rather than pushing it out past the fall election. Councillors have been concerned by the number of typos and errors in the draft the consultants brought them, and some feel the consultants may not have spent enough time in Sooke itself (in part due to COVID limitations).

For the fuller picture, read Capital Daily’s breakdown of the key concerns and debates around the Sooke OCP draft.

View Royal council: Short-term rental bylaw slated for Sept.

Council’s stance is against STRs, saying commercially rented residential suites take away from the town’s inventory of housing for long-term rentals or ownership. They hope to have a public hearing this August.

Strata seeks exception for not enough bike storage

An apartment building completed in 2019 was built with a secure bike storage room, as per zoning requirements. After people moved in, the bike storage room was converted to 35 storage lockers, which was apparently promised to purchasers in their purchase agreements.

Now the strata is asking for View Royal to let them have fewer than the required number of bike parking spaces (originally 37). They’ll build a new bike storage with room for 13 fewer bikes than is required by the zoning bylaw, plus have a less-secure bike storage area that accommodates 22 bikes.

Thetis development permit comes before council

This permit is for the fourth stage of residential buildings beside Thetis Lake Park. This stage is for a five-storey condominium building with two levels of underground parking.

By Zoë Ducklow

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Langford council: Developments on deck

Tenants found for empty Bryn Maur building

The city bought a two-storey green-clad commercial space at 2826 Bryn Maur Road late last year. It’s currently vacant, and the city is proposing renting one suite to Sea-Isle Rehabilitation which helps people recovering from brain injuries for $1 a year; renting to the Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission for $1,200 a month; and selling one portion of the building to iMagic Productions from whom Langford purchased a building to upgrade the nearby intersection. iMagic hasn’t found a new location and wants to buy this one for $350,000. Langford would have the right to buy it back when iMagic leaves for the same price plus a quarter of the property assessment increase.

2826 Bryn Maur via Google Streetview

Public hearings for townhomes and six-storey

A townhouse strata proposal at Sooke and Happy Valley Roads is up for a public hearing. The 16-unit proposal will amalgamate two lots that currently have detached houses with secondary buildings.

A second public hearing is scheduled for a six-storey residential building on Bray Avenue with 115 units. The developer, a group of three couples who each own one of the three properties, is proposing significantly more common amenity space (28%) than is required by Langford bylaws (5%). The proposal includes a yard, balcony, and rooftop patio with fire pits, barbecues, play area, vegetable gardens, and more. Over the last year, comments at public hearings have increasingly called for more amenity and gathering spaces in the new developments being approved in Langford.

Road costs may drop for developers

Development Cost Charges (DCC) for road works might come down by 1% for Langford developers. A staff report shows a list of planned road works over the next five years—a handful of new signalized intersections, some roundabouts, various sidewalk improvements, and more—and the budget is slightly lower than it was last time the road DCCs were evaluated. That represents $26 less per apartment unit, and $50 less per detached home.

Rezoning and ALR removal applications

A Happy Valley landowner whose property is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is hoping to slice off a portion of land separated by a creek. Langford staff indicate there are challenges with the application, since the section the owner wants to separate from her property has no street access. Langford has to approve the application in order for it to go before the ALR for consideration. If Langford rejects it, it will not proceed to the ALR. 

The comprehensive development plan for the Olympic View lands is up for adoption. The Olympic View golf course applied this year for more density than was allotted to it in the early 2000s for the 51 hectares running along the course in both Langford and Colwood. The increase in density and building height in the new proposal would be offset, GolfBC proposes, by a commitment to more open green space than was previously required.

A rezoning application is in to build a 12-storey mixed-use building on Jacklin near Goldstream with 88 residential units and commercial space.

By Zoë Ducklow

Peninsula councils tackle environmental issues

Central Saanich: CRD rejects request to exit climate service

Central Saanich had wanted to opt out of the combined district-wide service that provides technical data and scientific expertise, as well as supporting climate action like emissions reduction and climate adaptation in the region. Mayor Ryan Windsor argued the $40k cost would be better deployed by the municipality itself. Read the full story here.

By Jimmy Thomson

North Saanich debates details of new tree protection bylaw

At the regular meeting of council on July 11, staff presented 17 recommendations for the draft tree protection bylaw to council. One recommendation was to update the tree damage definition to exclude tree retopping—which would allow for retopping of previously topped trees but not for new trees. Topping is a controversial type of pruning in which the top of the main trunk and/or major branches are removed to limit height.

Coun. Jack McClintock tried to make an amendment to exclude topping of new trees as well, saying that it infringed too much into people’s personal use of their property. "I have to speak out in support of people who cherish their views," he said. However, no other councillor voted in favour of this amendment.

Another staff recommendation was to hire an arborist to help implement the updated tree protection bylaw. This motion carried 4-2. Both Celia Stock and McClintock opposed it, with the latter saying it would cause a 0.5% increase on people’s taxes and that an arborist wasn’t necessary because "we haven’t changed the dynamic of what a tree is."

Council voted for staff to bring a revised draft of this bylaw back to council for first, second, and third readings. Council also approved an additional $10k for the next phase of its review—the approval process.

Sidney approves heat pump variations for strata

At the regular committee of the whole meeting on July 11, council heard from Jean Ives, the strata president of the townhouse complex at 9889 Seventh. She presented her case that council relax requirements for heat pump locations (the units currently aren’t allowed to have heat pumps because of space requirements). All the units have gas furnaces and thus no cooling option, making livability a challenge—especially during last summer’s heat dome. Further, she argued, it would aid in their efforts to reduce their emission outputs. Council voted unanimously in favour.

By Hanna Hett

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