All of us need to be involved...
Land redevelopment has a significant impact on a community. Buildings can enhance or detract from where we live for many decades to come, and they also create a precedent for future development. Residents of a community, particularly immediate neighbours, should have a strong say in what gets built around them.
The Gonzales Neighbourhood Association feels that the Rhodo development on 1712/1720 Fairfield will significantly detract from the quality of the neighborhood and community, and that action needs to be taken by the community.
If you are not happy with the Rhodo proposal, it is important that you signal this by emailing your elected representatives at least a day before the Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting on November 22nd at 9:00 am. That e-mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COTW, which is comprised of the Mayor and all members of Council, is not considered a formal Council meeting. No final decisions are made; however, recommendations may be made and discussed at that time. There is no opportunity for public presentations at the meeting, but members of the public may email their elected representatives beforehand so that issues can be addressed. It is helpful if you include your name and address in the email.
Formal decisions are made during a meeting where the public is invited to comment.
1. Q: What is being proposed?
A: A 17-townhouse project is being proposed for 1712 and 1720 Fairfield Road and goes to the Committee of the Whole on November 22nd for an initial review. Rhodo application link.
Find out more about the review status on the Development Tracker
2. Q: Are townhouses permitted in Gonzales?
A: The 2002 Gonzales Neighbourhood Plan does not mention townhouses; however, townhouses were discussed in the proposed 2018 Gonzales Neighbourhood Plan which was postponed in order to provide more time to address concerns of Gonzales residents. There are no guidelines for townhouses in Gonzales, which is why it is important for residents to weigh in now on how they think townhouses should be designed for this location. This project will set a precedent for future townhouse developments in the neighbourhood even though a neighbourhood plan has not yet been finalized.
3. Q: Does the addition of 17 new townhouses address the concern about creating more affordable housing?
A: No. These units are not aimed at lower-income home owners nor are they meant to add to affordable rental stock.
The developer takes the position that by creating more "upper-end" housing, there will be less competition for the lower-end housing in Victoria. However, according to most recent data from Statistics Canada, there is more than enough upper-end housing in Victoria. In fact, the unoccupied housing rate in Victoria in 2016 was 7%, whereas there was little to no affordable housing stock. Since 2016, many more "unaffordable" units have been built, and yet, the availability of affordable housing has not increased. Not only will the proposed Rhodo development not address the affordable housing issue, it will actually be tearing down housing that would have fallen into the mid-level housing category.
4. Q: Why is the developer seeking a site specific zoning?
A: Site-specific zoning (a new zone for the site) for the Rhodo would enable the developer to greatly reduce setbacks, increase the allowable site coverage and increase the building height to above current maximums.
5 aspects of the design that do not meet the existing zoning requirements for the site:
1. The number of parking spaces will be 22 (Aryze's application indicates that only 22 spaces is the minimum required; City staff have confirmed that 26 are actually required).
2. The 3-storey building facing Fairfield will be 38’ (12 m) high, the current maximum is 25' (7.6 m).
The development is 3 stories on Fairfield Road, even though it is classified as a 2 ½ story because of the area of the 3rd floor and the slope of the land.
3. There will be virtually no front yard on Fairfield Road — the front setback will be 5.5' (1.68 m), whereas the current minimum is 24.5’ (7.5 m).
This development will create a 3-storey, 38' wall, 5 ½ feet from the front property line. The applicable bylaw states that "No part of any building shall be closer than 19.6 ft (6 m) from the street frontage" and "the average distance of the walls of a building facing the street frontage shall be not less than 24.6 ft. (7.5 m)."
4. Currently, a rear yard should be 30' (9.1 m) or at least 30% of the site depth (so for the Rhodo 60' on the west side), the Rhodo is asking for a rear setback of 20' (6.1 m).
The ecology of this park, along with users’ experience, would be better protected by having an adequate buffer of 30 ft+ and a visual barrier to the development such as a tall hedge or fence.
5. The building footprint will take up 60% of the total site whereas the current maximum allowed is 30%. The city should establish clear expectations that multi-unit developments should provide as much open space as possible and site coverage, including auxiliary buildings, should be limited to a maximum of 30%.
5. Q: What will be the impact of several townhouses opening almost directly onto Hollywood Park?
A: Hollywood Park is important to the community. It serves as the home of the Beacon Hill Little League with many kids from across Victoria and BC coming for practices and tournaments. The park is used regularly by dog-walkers, children in the playground, tennis-players and other community members enjoying time in a green space. The City should be cautious in allowing an adjacent development to take away from the public enjoyment and ecological value of the park .
This development appears to treat this neighbourhood park as its own yard, as there are only minimal yards in the design of the Rhodo project. Not complying with existing "setback" requirements, or the recommendations that a minimum setback in relation specifically to parks, is very concerning.
6. Q: What will be the impact of cutting down 51 trees to build this development?
A: Cutting down these trees is contrary to the concept of protecting the tree canopy and doing our part to address climate change. One of the best aspects of our community is the trees. People all over the world comment on how beautiful it is here and how fortunate we are to have them. But paving paradise is easy to do so we must be vigilant when it is happening in our community
On March 15, 2018, Council made a motion to strengthen the language regarding tree preservation in the new Gonzales Neighbourhood Plan in anticipation of the forthcoming updates to the Tree Preservation Bylaw and implementation of the Urban Forest Master Plan. Over the last several months, City staff continue to indicate that there has not yet been any progress on the Tree Preservation Bylaw and Urban Forest Master Plan; therefore, it is our position that developments such as this should not be allowed to proceed if there is no effective plan or strategy in place to better protect trees and urban forests? Approving this development, and the removal of over 50 trees now, could circumvent the development and implementation of such strategies .
7. Q: Does the townhouse design fit the existing character of the area?
A: In our opinion, no, and this is a factor that must be considered. As described by the City's Advisory Design Panel comments, it is an "urban solution in a residential area".
The current Gonzales Neighbourhood Community Plan (2002) requires consideration of “the fit of new houses with the size and character of existing houses in the neighbourhood", and that"builders are to preserve and maintain, to the extent possible, neighbourhood features, such as trees, fences, gardens, and rock outcrops.” It also encourages builders to “consider the existing character of the site, as well as that of neighbouring properties, in the design of new houses.”
8. Q: What will be the impact on parking in the area?
Many of those using the park come from out-of-town or other parts of Greater Victoria. Parking is needed for those coming for Little league games and practice, tennis, the hospital, Gonzales beach, Dallas Road, and the Cemetery. Due to the amount of secondary suites in the neighbourhood, parking is also needed for existing residents as well as those visiting them. Parking in the area is already challenging, and adding 17 more units that are unlikely to be single-car families, without adequate parking and visitor parking, will have a noticeably negative impact on the area.
·9. Q: Is the Rhodo project consistent with the Official Community Plan?
A: Being located adjacent to a neighbourhood park is an important factor when considering new buildings, and are to consider these Official Community Plan objectives:
8 (a) That urban design at every scale from sites to local areas is responsive to Victoria’s geographic context and existing pattern of development, achieves excellence, and creates memorable places.
8 (b) That the views from the public realm of existing landmarks are maintained, and that new landmarks are introduced to enhance the visual identity and appearance of Victoria and to improve wayfinding around the city.
8 (c) That new buildings and features contribute to the sense of place in development permit areas and heritage conservation areas through sensitive and innovative responses to existing form and character.
8 (d) That social vibrancy is fostered and strengthened through human scale design of buildings, streetscapes and public spaces.
8 (f) That the built environment is beautified and softened through natural features in the public realm.
Given that the Rhodo development is located next to a neighbourhood park, the above objectives are not being met with the current design. The current "green" view on the east side of the park is not maintained, the design is not responsive to the existing form and character of other buildings in the vicinity, and the lack of a sufficient buffer to the park will significantly detract from the experience of other users of this park.
* During the planning process this past year, Mayor and Council agreed that the new Gonzales Neighbourhood Plan needed to have stronger language to better protect green space and trees (see March 15, 2018 Council Motion). Residents worked with City staff in developing guidelines that would apply to developments such as the Rhodo. Although the Gonzales Neighbourhood Plan has not been completed, the stronger language now appears in the 2018 Design Guidelines for Attached Residential Development, which includes these statements (page 7):
The developments highlighted in the Design Guidelines showcase designs that are intended to maintain the existing character of the neighbourhood and provide reasonable setbacks.
g. The design and placement of buildings and landscape should establish a sensitive transition to adjacent parks, trails, open spaces, and natural areas, considering a landscaped edge; respect the root zones of adjacent trees; and minimize impacts on ecologically sensitive areas and natural features.
h. For new development adjacent to parks and larger public outdoor open spaces, design should clearly delineating private from public spaces, to avoid “privatizing” of public space.
The Rhodo development is not consistent with these guidelines. There is no delineation between the minimal patio space of the townhouses facing Hollywood Park and the park itself. Aryze's own materials (distributed on November 8, 2018) highlight this feature as follows: "Along the Hollywood Park side of the site, homes give on to outdoor patios with steps down to the park."