JBNA: We can do better

James Bay Neighbourhood Association

JBNA New logo April 2015.jpg

Submitted by James Bay Neighbourhood Association

A lively discussion regarding a development and the demolition of yet another quality home was the focus at the regular monthly meeting of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) on September 11, 2019.

 CALUC 160 South Turner Street – 557 Simcoe Street 

This CALUC proposal to rezone two properties (three lots) from R2 to Site Specific zoning would allow construction of an 11 unit town home complex, with underground parking. The site specific zone will require an amendment to the City’s Official Community Plan (OCP). The house at 160 South Turner straddles two lots. The three lots forming an 'L' shape could accommodate six residences under the current R2 zoning. The proposal indicates three separate blocks: two units of four town homes and one unit with three town homes There are ten three bedroom town homes and one two bedroom town home. Parking for all units is underground, below grade and accessed off South Turner Street where 160 South Turner currently sits. An eight foot easement along Simcoe Street will go to the City. Construction would tentatively start September 2020 and take approximately one year to complete following a Monday to Friday schedule. The developer did not have shadow renderings.

The developer discussed keeping the height of the town houses at two storeys to minimize shadow impact on Clarence Street while keeping additional vehicle parking off the street.

The landscape plan has not been completed, but will meet City requirements. The property has been scanned and the developer does not anticipate having to blast to go eight to ten feet into the ground. There is one visitor parking stall in the underground. There are two car garages so it is possible that visitors will park in the garages, but the development meets City requirements for parking. There is a possibility that people will park on South Turner.

Residents attending the meeting expressed appreciation for South Turner Street, and in particular the house at 160 South Turner. It was agreed that South Turner is beautiful, with many heritage homes that have been maintained over the years. Although the proponents assured that the house at 160 South Turner house will be moved and given new life in a new location, a resident noted that she had contacted Nickel Bros who had not received any enquiry about relocating the house.

When questioned about the lack of accessibility for any units in the proposal, the developer proposed that the units could be accessible off the street between block A and block B, making Block C accessible on the main floor.

While some improvement for 557 Simcoe Street was considered appropriate, there was little support expressed for the removal of the house on South Turner Street. Residents attending the meeting challenged the type of accommodation proposed for failing to offer anything to the neighbourhood. James Bay has always been a welcoming community, accommodating a mixed demographic and a diverse population. This development will be too expensive to meet either of those needs, while paying no attention to the serious considerations residents determined in creation of the James Bay Neighbourhood Plan and the OCP. There is potential on this site to provide more accommodation and a greater variety of accommodation, but this proposal was not seen to provide the kind of housing needed in our neighbourhood.

Cycling and accessibility should have more emphasis on a site within walking distance of a service centre such as James Bay Square. Street parking was another major concern. Underground parking does not prevent on-street parking by residents. The proposal was considered to demonstrate a lack of respect to South Turner, which would be used as an access lane to parking. With one exception, South Turner is intact with original housing used for multiple uses. Residents have made commitments to retain the character of the street for decades.

A comment was made that the previous owner was in the process of heritage designation for 160 South Turner before he died. The developer was encouraged to save/salvage an original character and remarkably well preserved house, by conversion to an up/down duplex or a four unit multi-family conversion. You could not purchase the quality of materials with which this house is constructed. It has a full height basement and could easily be converted into a multi-unit residence. It would generate good will in the community if the house was retained on site.

The community challenged the developer to develop the site in a way that enhances the neighbourhood, and brings the neighbourhood together. The Chair summarized the development application process. A letter to Mayor and Council will include comments made at the JBNA meeting with additional correspondence expressing interest in more affordable housing. 

 Community Voices:

Brian Cloosterman informed the meeting that the James Bay Roundtable was to host a crime prevention seminar in James Bay on Friday September 20. Constable Teri Healey was to be present with the Block Watch coordinator. Advance registration for this free event was required.

 Next Month:

Join us on October 9, 2019 for our regularly scheduled monthly meeting at James Bay New Horizons, 237 Menzies Street. Check the website (jbna.org) for the meeting agenda to be determined.

MLA report: Reconciliation is More than Words

Highlights of Current Rental Housing Data for the City of Victoria and James Bay