UVic bends to public demands on Queenswood

The future use of six hectares of property continues to cause friction in Cadboro Bay.

After completing its public consultation with residents over the future of land that has housed the Queenswood retreat on Arbutus Road, the University of Victoria has amended its original proposal and plans to apply for rezoning with the district by the end of the month.

The changes, including expanded 15-metre setbacks from lot lines and reduced three-storey building height limits, were mailed out in a project update bulletin to 1,400 households in the area last week.

“It’s so much information that most people haven’t actually been able to go through it and make a decision about whether they like it or not,” Cadboro Bay Residents Association president Rick Page said of the four-page flyer.

“I have heard a number of comments that people are really happy the university has responded and is making changes in the right direction.”

Cadboro Bay resident Barbara Raponi is less than impressed with the school’s plan. She has been organizing community meetings with neighbours, forming a group called the Friends of Queenswood. They have concerns over what she calls UVic’s “deliberately obtuse communication.”

Among the group’s key issues is the increase in density the proposed changes would bring to the lot.

“Their strategy appears to be ‘let’s ask for the world so as to maximize the value of our investment, and community input be damned,’” she said.

Neil Connelly, director of campus planning and sustainability for UVic, says the school is open to receiving any more comments from the public, via the website www.queenswoodrezoning.ca.

“As the process unfolds at Saanich, there’ll likely be a need for further public consultation and discussion as part of the process,” he said.

Student housing, which the school would like to see on the property in some form – not necessarily traditional dorms – will be a key point of discussion as planning moves forward, Connelly said.

“One of the first things that we (ask) an applicant is ‘have you done a full process of consultation?’” said Coun. Vic Derman.

UVic purchased Queenswood from the Sisters of St. Ann in March 2010. Under an agreement made with UVic at that time, the not-for-profit group retained use of the retreat centre until Jan. 1, 2011.

nnorth@saanichnews.com