Pause button hit on school reno

A variance application to allow for a larger building was deferred by Oak Bay council

The road to a new St. Michaels University junior school hit a bump last week.

A variance application to allow for a larger building was deferred by Oak Bay council, to the delight of dozens of residents who packed chambers April 22, hoping to see more traffic and parking concessions from the private school.

“Council realized it is a serious issue. … There is recognition SMUS is not able to handle their traffic problems,” said neighbour Robin Longe.

Longe, who lives on Beaverbrooke Street near Victoria Avenue where the school entrance stands, said the neighbours have faced years of cars blocking driveways, long-term idling and traffic jams which has resulted in conflict between residents and students.

“The thing is, they have the resources they could have dedicated over the last few years, used some of their fields for parking instead of staff and teachers parking in our neighbourhood,” he said. “What I would like to see is a traffic plan that deals with these issues in a reasonable way.”

The school hopes to expand the number of classrooms, adding approximately 16 students to its current enrollment of 178 this September, with another 16 the following year.

“We have pledged to undertake a couple things (in) a traffic management plan. We want to evaluate one: what the potential impact the addition of 30 students would be,” said Laura Authier, SMUS director of communications. “And the second thing is we want to know what other solutions there are besides the ones we already explored, and put into place a parking management plan as well.”

Authier said part of the solution is in the construction of the new building going from 12 parking spots to 38 underground spaces, and pick up in front of the building that is off the street.

“We feel that will go a long way to really help mitigate the issues we are seeing right now. However, there are more options we can explore and we definitely want to do that,” Authier said. “I think we understand the frustration and we definitely imagine ourselves in a place where we are working together to get past these.”

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