Citizen planning advisors approve four-storey project for Oak Bay

Plan tweaks the look and accessibility of proposed Cadboro Bay Road development

A preliminary review primed a proposal for Cadboro Bay Road and Bowker Avenue prior to its pitch to the Advisory Planning Commission Tuesday.

The proposed development would consolidate five lots to construct a four-storey mixed-use building.

“I felt, and I think others felt, that the preliminary kick at the can was really useful in terms of providing feedback to the applicant. It gave them some good direction to come back with some of the changes they put forward,” said Pam Copley, chair of the APC. “It’s a very significant and new proposal for this location and getting it right is important.”

Abstract Developments proposes to redevelop a handful of properties that currently holds three single-family homes, a duplex, and commercial space.

The proposal is to rezone the site and build a four-storey mixed-use development. Existing buildings would be removed and replaced with a single building facing both Cadboro Bay Road and Bowker Avenue. Lot consolidation would combine the five separate properties into one property.

Ground-floor commercial space would front Cadboro Bay Road, with residential uses fronting Bowker Avenue and the westernmost end of the building at Cadboro Bay Road.

“It’s a very new, a very bold project, particularly for that location, it’s been under-utilized for many years, but it is a very different concept and it’s quite bold. One has to be careful,” Copley said.

“Our conversation I believe is a reflection of what the community is going to hear, things that are going to be said by council over the course of this development however long that might take.

“We start the conversation in the public forum and it continues from there … but council will make a decision based partly on our recommendations but on other information as well.”

Greg Damant, of Cascadia Architects, offered the APC an overview of tweaks to the plan after the proposal came for a preliminary review last fall.

The residential unit number went down to 43 and the parking provision up to 59 underground spots. Residential mix now includes 10 units with a den that could be converted, allowing for creation of a third bedroom. Two ground-floor units on Bowker have ground level entries for accessibility. Visible changes include architectural alterations to soften the scape, and step the fourth storey back from the road.

While a rental stock was not viable, the applicant agreed to provide a covenant that there be no restriction on rentals.

One alteration reflected feedback during open houses and meetings with neighbours not fond of the existing buildings.

“What they would like to see is a destination,” Damant said, noting the district also deems the area a secondary village. They would agree to a covenant for the corner commercial unit to be a cafe or eatery offering a hub. The proposal shows a widened walkway and a terrace at that corner.

Abstract also agreed to provide $50,000 toward improvements to the intersection, for Oak Bay to make improvements, noted by many members of the APC as needing safety work.

A number of Garry oaks would be removed for development, with new trees planted.

After lengthy discussion, the citizens advisory group recommended approval, with some reservations.

Specific reservations include floor area ratio, height at the corner of Bowker and Cadboro Bay, intensity and density, transitioning from single family to multi-family, consideration of impact of parking in the neighbourhood and community amenities.

Commission member Kris Nichols abstained from the vote.

“I would like a more fulsome discussion around the table,” Nichols said earlier in the discussion.

Among his concerns was the lack of traffic plan provided for the APC, information that will be available for council. Abstract staff noted studies were contracted for both adjacent traffic and parking.

The proposal is expected on the committee of the whole agenda Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave. Visit www.oakbay.ca to view the agenda before the meeting.