JBNA: Demystifying the Process

James Bay Neighbourhood Association

Submitted by the James Bay Neighbourhood Association

JBNA New logo April 2015.jpg

As part of the preparation for a new James Bay Local Area Plan, two City of Victoria senior planners made a presentation to the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) at the regular monthly meeting on June 12, 2019. The presentation was aimed at demystifying the language and terminology of the planning process

Miko Betanzo, Senior Planner, Urban Design discussed his primary focus: developments. He explained common, although often misunderstood, planning terms: storeys, building height, basements, floor space ratio (FSR), site coverage, open site space, set backs, and land uses.

Marc Cittone, Senior Community Planner has a broader focus. He gave an overview of the Official Community Plan (OCP) objectives and considerations. Mr. Cittone’s work with the OCP is concerned with the future needs of the City of Victoria.

The Official Community Plan (OPC), adopted by Council in 2012, is a regulatory bylaw offering high level, city wide direction to anticipate and guide long term (30 year) growth and change. At the time of adoption, it was described by the City as a “new plan for a new Century.” The broad range of topics within the OCP include development, transportation, parks and recreation, housing and community wellbeing, and the environment.

Marc Cittone works with population trends & projections. The population projection for the City of Victoria in 2041 is approximately 100,000 people (approximately 4500 annually), an increase of over 14,000 from the 2016 census figures. The housing demand forecast for 2041 is for 13,000 new apartment-type residences, and 2740 new ground orientated homes, in addition to meeting increased accommodation requirements for rental workforce, family and senior housing. While the senior population is expected to double in that time, other demographics (including bifurcated boomers and 20-somethings) are expected to grow more slowly. Housing trends during the 2012-16 period indicate 7% growth in James Bay. Generally, across the City more growth occurred in the urban core and less in the neighbourhood villages.

With a population target of a minimum of 20,000 new residents in Victoria and 20% of regional housing growth, the City develops employment targets to maintain its status as a regional employment centre as well as plans to maintain industrial employment lands.

Other planning targets include providing 90% of the population within 400 metres of a downtown town centre or urban village with goods and services for daily living, including a full service grocery store. Another goal is to have 99% of the population within 400 metres of a park or open green space. The City has also developed Design Guidelines for Residential Development to consider in new developments.

A Local Area Plan (LAP), updating the existing James Bay Neighbourhood Plan, will be initiated in the next two years after the currently in-process neighbourhood plans for other neighbourhoods are completed. James Bay's current neighbourhood plan was completed in November 1993, following mediation to reconcile community and city objectives. In September, 1994 an errata sheet with commitments to the Victoria Accord (including Capital Park) was added. Currently the LAP conversation is focused on housing, village areas, and parks and amenities.

A resident observed that not all properties are developed to their maximum capacity according to their existing zoning. They wondered about the potential for small dwellings on a double lot to be replaced with an apartment building.

Perhaps the OPC should be reviewed every five years. Planners noted that the OPC goes through a rigorous review procedure to ensure consistencies between the various neighbourhood plans, council plans, and budget plans.

A member noted that James Bay properties are zoned R2. This was a result of a mediated agreement in 1993 for rezoning some lots to R2 in exchange for downzoning of some other properties.

Another member reported concerns about applying for permits to upgrade non-conforming suites, putting tenants and landlords at risk. The planners responded that the requirement to legalize suites (fire separations, exit doors, etc.) is a City bylaw as opposed to the provincial building code which legislates a number of building conditions, including ceiling heights. While there is some discretion regarding City policies, there is no discretion as to whether or not one must comply with the building code.

In response to objections raised to Schedule C parking requirements, planners noted that the city wants a single family home to have usable backyard space. Discussion to negotiate parking requirements is possible if public transportation is available.

Community Voices:

A member reported that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) is not monitoring cruise-traffic routing as outlined in their Operations Manual. According to the GVHA manual, taxis are restricted to traveling on Dallas Road, Superior and Belleville Streets. Taxis are now using Montreal Street, and travelling at excessive speeds. Although this route is temporary during CRD wastewater work on Dallas Road, the excessive speeds are an ongoing concern.

A Director for the James Bay Community Project reported a request for a variance from a developer who has purchased two adjacent parking lots on Parry/Powell Streets for development. The developer is proposing a single family house with a secondary suite, on each lot. The Project has concerns that variances on set-backs and height requested for the first building could set the pattern for similar variances on the second building. The proposal would disrupt both windows and rear exit doors on the Community Project building, as well as parking, and the children’s playground. There has been no consultation to date with neighbours. Adjacent residents will be requesting the proposal go to full public hearing process or delayed until full consultation takes place.

City of Victoria councilor Laurel Collins reported a number of city initiatives including the implementation of free transit for children between five and 18 years of age, a new four way stop (also known as an all way stop) at Oswego and Simcoe, and new crosswalks at St Lawrence and Superior, and Dallas and Montreal. Additional crosswalks are to be installed along Dallas Road between Dock and Douglas Streets, as part of the CRD wastewater/bike lane project.

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