In the middle of what Oak Bay council thought was going to be a series of routine building variance approvals, a number of residents from Crestview Road spoke out in protest against the plans for a 7,000-plus square foot home in their midst.
Concerns were raised about the proposed plans at 3671 Crestview Rd. regarding the addition of a second storey, variances requested to allow greater square footage, privacy issues regarding the decks, limited sunlight in adjacent properties and the sheer size of the house not fitting in with the current bungalow feel of the street.
Clarification of the maximum height restrictions showed that the proposed building’s second storey is within the bylaws and does not require a variance. Designer Brian Kendrick spoke to the square footage of the house, explaining that it is not 7,000 square feet of indoor living space.
Excluding the deck and raised terraces, garage and below-grade basement, the actual living space is just over 3,000 square feet, said Kendrick.
The only variance that the plans needs approval for is an increase in total square footage, due to an oddity in the average grade that caused the basement square footage to be included, said Coun. Kevin Murdoch. Normally, he said, basements are not counted in total square footage.
Paul Terry, the builder and representative for the owners of the proposed house, was surprised that there was a backlash from the neighbours.
“We’re recycling a 1964 house, re-using the bones of what is a very good house,” he said. “We’ve tried to do everything correctly. I’m astonished that the design has caused such concern.”
Neighbour Rhondda Tolen’s major concern is having the sun blocked from her property by the additional height of the proposed building. Her living room is sunken, she said, and would have little to no winter sun. She also said her back deck is less private after the developer removed an evergreen from the adjacent property.
Jodi Mckeown Foster, also of Crestview Road, said that of a survey she had helped conduct of the residents, 75 per cent of them are against the building plans they had seen, calling it a “McMansion” on one occasion.
“It was very upsetting to our residents that this changes the look of our street,” she told council.
Several other neighbours also expressed concern about a stand of Garry oaks and a sequoia in the front yard being retained and protected through construction.
Coun. Michelle Kirby, who had seen the proposed plans for the expansion to 3671 Crestview Rd. at a previous council meeting, was also surprised with the protests.
“I did not feel at first glance that this would ever bring out a crowd from the street,” she said. She added that the building plan drawings likely didn’t reflect what the house would actually look like once built, and noted that the house would only cover 22 per cent of the lot. “I think it’s much worse on paper.”
Council asked if the builder and designer would be willing to have an open house with more detailed drawings to better show the residents of Crestview what the proposed building would actually look like.
Terry and Kendrick readily agreed. “In hindsight, I wish we’d had more time to talk to the neighbours. We can explain it better,” said Terry.
Murdoch added that the house is only a 0.33:1 ratio of house to lot, which is much smaller than the standard 0.4:1 ratio. He also said that before the bylaws were changed in 2007, the proposed plans would not have needed any variance approval.
Neighbour Virginia Tucker said that an open house and more thorough explanation with the builder would satisfy her concerns, and wanted to see council approve the variances.
“I hate to see a family put back months and months,” she said.
Kirby agreed. “I don’t think a delay would benefit anyone. We need to let this family get started.”
Council voted unanimously to approve the variances.