The balance between increased users and an already dangerous intersection at the corner of Bowker Avenue and Cadboro Bay Road dominates discussion on a proposed building for the corner.
Safety, traffic, parking and mass appearance topped concerns during the conversation that neared three hours during Oak Bay council’s committee meeting Monday night.
Committee of the whole and the public reviewed the proposal to rezone the five properties – home now to three single-family homes, a duplex and a commercial building – into one parcel. The proposed building would have 43 multi-family residential units and five ground-floor commercial spaces, with the corner space under covenant for restaurant or café use. The site is surrounded by a mix of uses, including single-family homes, multi-family developments and public institutions.
“This is a bold move and sometimes bold moves make for great outcomes,” said resident Leona Frenette. “We will see some vibrancy to that corner which is much needed.”
She was among the many who voiced support for the Abstract Developments proposal to build a four-storey mixed-use building on the five properties that make up the wedge of land.
Nearly all residents who spoke to the proposal damned the intersection as unsafe.
“When you walk down there … you are taking your life in your hands,” resident Dylan Fraser said of the adjacent Cadboro Bay Road crosswalk. “Something has to be done.”
While agreeing a review of the proposed amenities offered might be in order, he praised the proposal as adding vibrancy to the community.
Under the current proposal, Abstract would contribute $50,000 toward a fund for upgrading the intersection of Cadboro Bay Road and Bowker Avenue.
They would also do physical upgrades to the frontage along Cadboro Bay Road – widening the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic and recessing on street parking, to accommodate a potential bike lane – at an estimated cost of $128,600. Abstract would also enter a housing agreement to ensure no restrictions are placed renting units in the building, a restrictive covenant ensuring restaurant or cafe use in the main commercial space and a plaza area protected as an open public gathering space.
“Impact on traffic is something better measured over time,” said James Sultanum.
He suggested Oak Bay investigate holding a bond, should something such as a streetlight be deemed necessary after the changes to the neighbourhood.
“We’re going to have a lot more pedestrians coming in and the conflict between pedestrians and cars will become more acute,” said Doug Mollard.
Most residents tasked council with balancing the connection between the land use application and required upgrades to improve the intersection and throughway.
“I don’t think you can separate this project from safety,” said Mike Wilmut. “Reason says that place is going to be jammed up like crazy.”
He urged council to seek a three-dimensional model and send the proposal back to staff for further discussion with Abstract. Council, sitting as committee, deferred such a motion. Instead they expect to discuss it as a council Monday night, during the regular council meeting.
“Sound decisions must be made on sound evidence,” said Bruce Filan, who did not voice support for the proposal. He suggested, for example, there is no evidence of a need for commercial space in Oak Bay and plenty of eateries in adjacent neighbourhoods and municipalities.
While most praised Abstract for their proactive approach to neighbours, discussing the proposed project prior to municipal applications, Filan was among those not contacted, he said.
“It’s going to have an impact on the whole community,” he said, pointing to the parking variance as an example.
While the parking bylaw for Oak Bay doesn’t address the specific zone – the new zoning would be CD-3 Comprehensive Development Use, Bowker Village – similar zoning would require 127 parking spaces, 97 for residential use and 30 for commercial use. The applicant proposes 59 spaces total, underground and accessed from Bowker Avenue.
“We did look at commercial parking rates,” said Jim Hemstock of Adept Transportation Solutions, who provided traffic and parking reports for the proposal. “To be frank they’re extremely high in Oak Bay. Our assessment was that this is going to function very well.”
Did you know?
• Abstract Developments, with a sales office on Oak Bay Avenue, also made a development permit application to address form and character of the proposed building. That is under review concurrently with the rezoning application. Should the rezoning be approved, the development permit application would be brought forward to council for consideration.