The artist’s rendering shows the three-storey mixed use development on Sidney’s westside that councillors voted down earlier this month. (Submitted)

Sidney turns down housing project over size, massing after neighbourhood concerns

Would-be developer of project on Sidney’s westside now plans to sell lot

The owner of a Sidney property plans to sell it after council denied an application for a three-storey mixed use development on Sidney’s westside.

Rob Pringle, senior architectural technologist at Joe Newell Architect, said the owner of 2140 Skylark Lane plans to sell the lot after councillors meeting as committee of the whole voted down the project by a vote of 4-3. The development advertised itself as affordable housing with 12 units, including two live-work units on the ground floor.

Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith as well as Couns. Scott Garnett, Terri O’Keeffe, Chad Rintoul voted against the application. Couns. Sara Duncan, Barbara Fallot and Peter Wainwright opposed denial.

Pringle, who presented the project to councillors earlier this month, said it has no future. “We were of the opinion that regardless of what type of building we would put forward, the neighbours don’t want development at that point,” he said.

He added that current zoning permits the construction of a duplex. “However, that does not fit in the grand scheme of the West Sidney Local Area Plan. At that point, the owner just felt that it may better just to sell the site.”

Pringle said later he was surprised council did not send the proposal to Sidney’s advisory planning commission, where the developer could have worked with town staff to make it work.

Opposition against the proposal appeared significant with all six speakers during public participation arguing against the proposal. Council also received several letters against the proposal from area residents.

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

“The project is too big, it doesn’t legally meet the [Official Community Plan] and it’s completely unfair to us and the immediate four, five properties around it,” said Jason Stewart, who lives in the area. While Stewart acknowledged that Sidney will eventually densify over time, he questioned why council would allow re-development, when both the OCP and local area plan call for re-development to start from north to south rather than the middle of the neighbourhood.

Staff later said that the OCP currently calls for residential re-development from north to south, but the local area plan itself permits re-development throughout the area.

Stewart also called on councillors to follow through on their election promises for what he described as a “reasonable approach” towards development. Other speakers also questioned the impact of the development on traffic safety, privacy, local crime and process.

These arguments eventually ended up swaying the majority of council.

Coun. Garnett said his main concerns were about traffic safety, noting that the area is already busy with many forms of traffic, from residential traffic to school traffic to industrial traffic.

Mayor McNeil-Smith said the biggest issue with the project is the small size of the lot, adding that later that the area needs infrastructure improvements to ensure walk-ability. “As Mayor McNeil-Smith said, I just think this project is too big for this lot,” added Coun. O’Keeffe later.

While Coun. Wainwright acknowledged that the local area plan remains a “piece of unfinished business” from the previous council, the proposal before the current council attempts to change the direction of the neighbourhood. To say no now, would lock in the neighbourhood on its current trajectory, he said.

Coun. Sara Duncan said among other points that she would like to see the developer re-work his proposal, a sentiment shared by Coun. Fallot who pointed to Sidney’s lack of affordable housing. Within this context, the proposal drew a letter of support from John Juricic, chair of the Peninsula Industry Committee with the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

“Until we have a workable transit solution and affordable housing, Peninsula employers will continue to struggle to attract employees,” he wrote.

Mayor McNeil-Smith acknowledged the need for more affordable housing. But Sidney also needs two-room and three-bedroom suites on top of the housing proposed by the development, he said. It called for six bachelor suites, four one-bedrooms and one two-bedroom suite.

Rintoul questioned whether going to back to the neighbourhood would make any difference.


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