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UVic’s plan for Queenswood worries area neighbours

Possibility of six-storey building on site startling

Cadboro Bay residents are rallying together to voice concerns about the potential zoning of land that houses the Queenswood retreat.

Earlier this month about 200 residents attended the second of two open houses hosted by the land’s new owners, the University of Victoria.

Many questioned what restrictions would be put on the six-hectare (14-acre) parcel at Arbutus Road and Queenswood Drive. Topping the list of concerns is a proposed 30-metre, or six-storey, height limit on buildings.

“What they proposed was clearly not respectful in any way of (previous) comments they received from the residents,” Queenswood Drive resident Barbara Raponi said.

“We’ve got to start getting on this right now. I think that everybody was quite taken aback at the meeting.”

Raponi was among 70 residents who met with the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association board Feb. 14 to discuss zoning concerns. It was the most highly attended regular board meeting on record.

“It shows the depth of concern in the community,” said association president Rick Page, who helped draft a letter to UVic and Saanich council asking for another open house and more consideration of their concerns.

“If we’re not happy, it’s not likely they’re going to be successful at Saanich council, either,” he added. “So it’s in UVic’s best interest to listen to our concerns.”

UVic director of campus planning and sustainability, Neil Connelly, presented the university’s proposal to residents in advance of making a submission to Saanich sometime next month.

“We’re taking these comments into consideration as part of it and trying to see how we can respond to some of the issues and basically provide for the university’s use of the property,” he said.

Student housing remains a high priority for the school, Connelly said, but one that UVic is open to discussing. “There’s probably additional work we can do relative to what kind of student housing (it might be), or indicating it’s not an undergraduate dorm for student housing. But there could be options relating to shorter-term housing or family housing.”

The Queenswood property is within walking distance of the university and currently includes a retreat, a single-residential dwelling and a care facility, currently zoned for personal-care use.

UVic purchased Queenswood from the Sisters of St. Ann in March 2010.

Under an agreement made with UVic, the not-for-profit group retained use of the retreat centre until Jan. 1 of this year, as well as the option of operating the residence until January 2013.

No date has been set for future public consultation.