Divided council returns proposed Bowker build to committee

Conversation on project's density, massing set to continue Feb. 20

The discussion continues next month on the proposal for a building at Bowker Avenue and Cadboro Bay Road.

Council put forward questions about the proposed four-storey, mixed-use building at the corner then tasked staff to go back into conversation with the proponent and come back during the Feb. 20 committee meeting.

Floor area ratio, lot coverage, frontage and massing appearance continue to be concerns.

The design is a ‘V’ with commercial fronting on Cadboro Bay Road and a townhouse look to the residential units on Bowker Avenue.

The optics of that dense a building continue to concern Coun. Kevin Murdoch, who hoped the proponent would reconsider the zero setback on the Bowker front, to keep living spaces away from the sidewalk. The proponent says the plan uses landscaping to create a setback in the right of way.

“You don’t experience it as a zero setback,” said Greg Damant, of Cascadia Architects.

Armed with some answers after the previous committee meeting, Abstract noted their projects of similar size include Black and White on Fort Street and Village Walk on Oak Bay Avenue.

The building, they contend, would act as traffic calming with a vibrant busy corner. Also, the current building on the corner abuts the sidewalk. The proposal would pull the building back from the intersection on the ground level.

“I think the intersection could use a major overhaul,” said Mike Miller of Abstract.

Coun. Michelle Kirby noted as an area resident she was invited to attend early neighbourhood meetings and so had fewer questions. She again expressed support for moving forward on the application, noting little to no opposition from the community.

“There are concerns … but there is not an overflow crowd of angry residents,” Kirby said, noting the community needs a small increase in density and residential tax base.

The development aids in safety improvements to the intersection, both through the building and a $50,000 contribution to the district for work there, as well as building connectivity and walkability of that area, she said.

Murdoch said while that community support helps, “we still have a job to do.”

“I’m not excited about the density level,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite, noting the developer knew the challenges of the lots.

She questioned how a five-foot setback might affect the proposal.

“Dramatically,” Miller said. He noted they didn’t come up with the lot coverage and floor area ratio arbitrarily, and residential builds require certain floor area to be viable.

The motion to simply defer discussion to the next committee meeting failed, with Kirby, Ney, Jensen and Croft opposed.

Despite Jensen’s contention the original motion brought forward from committee that staff “continue negotiations” seems meaningless with no clear direction from council, that motion passed with Jensen, Kirby and Croft opposed.

The subject is set to come back to the Feb. 20 committee meeting at 7 p.m.

Visit oakbay.ca to find several reports and renderings on the proposal on the Jan. 23 agenda, or for the Feb. 20 agenda ahead of the meeting.

Did you know?

Abstract appears amenable with the idea of commissioning a contextual three-dimensional model called for by council and some residents.

The courtyard of the “V” shaped building counts toward floor area ratio and lot coverage which, council heard, drops from more than 88 per cent to about 70 per cent if the garden area isn’t counted.

With a request for comparison from other areas of the region, such as Victoria, Coun. Tom Croft suggested more breakdowns might be necessary. For example, if comparing to Victoria buildings, floor area ratios don’t take into account balconies and Oak Bay does.


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