Duncan city council has sent a proposal for a six-storey, 96-unit rental residential development on Ypres Street back to the city’s advisory design panel for further review.
Council had received more than 15 letters and emails mostly from neighbours of the WestUrban Developments project who took issue with it, and faced a full house of people opposed to it at its meeting on Sept. 6.
Many of those opposed raised concerns about the building’s proposed height and size, increased traffic in the neighbourhood, the loss of mature trees on the property, and some council members took issue with the fact that the proposed project didn’t contain an affordable-housing component and there were no guarantees that the units would remain rentals.
Ypres Street resident Katheryn Atchison said the proposed building would greatly increase the traffic on the street and the building’s design is “beyond stark”.
“It is a cement fortress that fails to add any ambience to the neighbourhood,” she said.
“The building will replace long established trees and green space with the visual optics of a prison.”
Brae Road’s Richie and Michelle Hawkey raised concerns about the 25 mature trees on the site, 17 of which are considered protected trees under the city’s tree protection bylaw, but can be removed if the city issued the developer a development permit.
“We also hope that due to the current issues with existing buildings built by WestUrban in the area, that greater stringency in engineering and inspections would be in order,” the Hawkeys said in a letter.
WestUrban Development is the owner of the five-storey, 64-unit Magdalena apartment building on Crosland Place in North Cowichan that has to be temporarily vacated due to multiple structural deficiencies and other work that needs remediation in order for the building to be safe for long-term occupation.
Coun. Bob Brooke said development is necessary in Duncan as the small city grows, and residential projects will have to go up in height instead of out.
He said the days of single-family dwellings has reached their twilight and the city is looking at a different vision for residential development.
“That being said, this is not the right [project] for that site,” Brooke said.
“There is going to be something on it, but it’s clear to everyone that this is not exactly what we had in mind.”
Coun. Tom Duncan agreed with Brooke in that the city doesn’t have the land to support new developments of single-family homes, so new projects must go up in height.
“However, we need guarantees that the tenants of this project will not have their units sold out from under them, and that there will be an affordability component to the project,” he said.
“If I don’t see those, I won’t support this.”
Coun. Carol Newington said she has concerns about the impacts of the construction noise in the residential neighbourhood, and that she finds the proposed design of the project is not aesthetically pleasing.
“It looks like a medical office,” she said.“I can’t support this.”
Coun. Garry Bruce said the project is “too big, too much, and too close [to neighbouring buildings]” and requires all the trees on the property to be taken down, so he won’t support it.
Coun. Stacy Middlemiss agreed the only option for the city is to have new residential developments go up in height, but without an affordable housing component and a guarantee that the units will be kept as rentals, she won’t support it either.
Coun. Jenni Capps suggested that the proposal be sent back to the ADP for further review.
She said change is going to happen in the city, but she would like the ADP do some more study on this proposal.
“I was really pleased to hear the developer say they are open to taking a look at different options,” Capps said.
“I don’t think it’s taking a step backwards, it’s just taking another look at something that’s going to be around for a very long time.”