April 16 Council Summary & Observations

It was a long night. Fascinating but long. I had to take Friday and Saturday off just to decompress from it all. The public portion of the meeting adjourned at 12:10am on Friday. My last bus from downtown also left at 12:10am which meant that I had to pay $10 to take a taxi home.

So what happened anyways?

Meeting Agenda is here.

Video for the meeting is here.


Sounding as though she read my Early Thoughts, Mayor Helps said “we proclaim anything you want us to proclaim” and then a long and odd list of proclamations was read by the Corporate Administrator.

Public Hearings

There were six public hearings on the agenda.

This was way too many, and related to this, there were many comments made throughout the night of the extreme size (+1,000 pages) of the agenda. While speaking during his own request to address Council, one prominent businessman even made a joke about how when he was provided with an agenda for the evening, that he said he “only wanted one copy not three”.

Of note is that only one Public hearing is scheduled for the next Council meeting on April 30th. This unequal distribution seems impractical to me.

I tweeted to Mayor Helps during the Council meeting, asking if she would consider directing Victoria to dedicate a separate meeting night to public hearings like they do in Saanich. And after many comments from other folks about the length of the meeting throughout the night, Helps seemed to indicate that Victoria may be considering a second night of meetings, which would be great!

PH # 1 City Initiated OCP Amendment

There were no speakers to this item, comprehensive information relating to which is available from the City’s Have your say Victoria site.

PH #2 OCP & Zoning Amendment 1521-31 Elford

There was a very coordinated game going on in the background for this Public Hearing. From my place in the back of the Council Chambers I was able to observe two men in fancy suites as they went around to various folks, thanking them for coming and asking if they were prepared for their comments. I was about to start tweeting about what I had observed when these men then came and sat down right beside me. Turns out one of them goes to the same gym as me and we had a friendly chat.

So what about the hearing and development plans?

Former Mayor of Victoria Alan Lowe is the architect for this proposal to allow for the development of a 32-unit, four-storey apartment building, as well as permitting single family dwellings, two family dwellings, public buildings, rest homes, accessory buildings, and home occupations at the site.

During the 20 minutes available for proponents to speak to their proposal, Mr. Lowe spoke for 18.5 minutes straight. It was quite impressive! One primary theme in his presentation that was later picked up by speakers at the hearing, was the issue of public safety at Stadacona Park, the area behind the proposed development. The common argument being presented, was that if you increase development in the area, you increases “eyes and ears on the area” which would then decrease undesirable behaviours in the park.

With respect to this issue of park safety, Council in their consideration of the proposal were supposed to consider “appropriateness of location” in relation to the requested OCP amendment, and “appropriateness of height and design” with respect to the rezoning.” Appropriateness of impact on undesirable sheltering activities is not typically a development consideration.

Councillor Lucas argued as much when she spoke her to support for the proposed development on Elford Street:

Councillor Lucas Elford

Ultimately only Councillor Madoff was opposed to this development, with her reasons being that she is opposed to loss of heritage in neighbourhoods (as evidenced in the destruction of a derelict heritage house and the removal of the second house) and because she is worried about encouraging land speculation in neighbourhoods (as evidenced in one public hearing speaker who indicated that he had been approached by a developer for his land on Elford).

Everyone else gave their approval and the proposal for 1521-31 received the rezoning and OCP amendment it required.

PH#3 City Initiated Rezoning  520 Niagara

This was another lengthy public hearing item. It is a city proposal to rezone the land known as 520 Niagara Street from the R-2 Zone, Two Family Dwelling District, to a new R-80 Zone, Niagara Multiple Dwelling District, to permit a ground-oriented multiple dwellings with increased density of up to 1:1 Floor Space Ratio in exchange for the provision of amenities that include the protection of the existing Heritage-Registered building.

Many concerned James Bay residents showed up to speak. One group of residents operating outside of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) even organized to hire a lawyer, conduct an FOI request and submit a large binder on the file: James Bay 520 NiagaraHaving this group working outside of the JBNA unfortunately made things a bit more confusing though, both for the public and for Council. Especially in the context of this rezoning proposal where clear information on process and expectations was already lacking.

One interesting thing to note about this proposal is that Councillor Coleman gave a short speech prior to the start of the hearing, where he addressed accusations of lobbying that had been made against him. He then got heckled which must not have been fun for him.

Of note is that Coleman has not participated in any discussion on this file for 520 Niagara street due to his wife’s involvement with the Anglican Diocese, the registered owners of this property. For Coleman to participate would be a conflict of interest in the sense that he could be perceived as pursuing a solution that benefited the Church, which would in turn benefit his wife.

520 Niagara Attachments

As noted in the attachments, there was a lot to consider.

Major concerns received during the hearing included:

  • The potential for demolishment of the heritage church.
  • Accusations of bias against staff, based on public reading of emails received via the FOI mentioned above, which then in turn comprised the binder also mentioned above. In response to this concern, Councillor Thornton-Joe spoke of how staff work to the direction of Council.
  • A preference for demolishment of the old church instead of allowing for 1:1 FSR through the new rezoning (a suggested inducement for retaining the church).  Related to this, a concern was raised about how such density (e.g., 1:1) is not consistent with surrounding local neighbourhood lots.
  • Concern with a non-transparent development process.
  • Concern with parking along Niagara which would be worsened if heavy residential development were to occur at 520 Niagara.
  • The President of the Heritage Hallmark Society got up to say that he wasn’t envious of Council and that they “had quite a quandary” to deal with regarding 520 Niagara.
  • The President of the JBNA spoke of process concerns related to how the City initiated rezoning had not included the typical CALUC community consultation opportunity that is commonly associated with rezoning applications (hence the disparate community group agitating alongside the JBNA). The JBNA president asked that a CALUC process be added to any Development Permit applications going forward.

Council then took their time deliberating.

  • Madoff picked up on the need to add a CALUC requirement. She also spoke of how, “just because a rezoning gets approved, doesn’t mean a development permit will get approved”. Which was kind of silly, especially in the context of the PLUC meeting earlier that day where committee had to constantly be reminded that their decision making purview on DPs and DVPs is quite limited.
  • Isitt mused about whether the City can proceed with the previous option to force a Heritage Designation bylaw on the property – apparently this had been an original option but Council decided to proceed with the rezoning as a way of saving on any possible legal fees.
  • Councillor Young found it odd that he had to be the biggest heritage supporter in the room.

The proposed rezoning was then passed (3rd reading and adoption) by Council with unanimous support, so was the requirement for adding a CALUC process to any subsequent Development Permit.

PH #4 450 Dallas Road DP with Variances

This was a proposal to allow for a high rise to authorize the creation of an additional residential unit (by separating 2 units that were previously combined) within an existing multi-unit building, resulting in a one-stall parking variance in the James Bay neighbourhood. It was quickly authorized by Council as there were no speakers for the hearing.

PH # 5  595 Pandora DP with Variances

This was a proposal to permit the repurposing of the existing office building to 51 residential units with ground floor street facing commercial. The variances are required to:

  • to increase the maximum building height from 15.2m to 18.2m
  • to increase the maximum number of storeys from four to five
  • to allow residential use on the first storey.

The developers gave a fairly detailed presentation and there were some speakers at the hearing, including again the president for the Heritage Hallmark Society. Despite some concerns being raised, Council quickly authorized the required DP with variances.

PH #6 549 Toronto  Development Variance Permit

This was a proposal for a three-storey, five unit townhouse building that requires the following variances:

  • site coverage reduced from 30% to 44%
  • site area reduced from 920m2 to 850m2
  • front yard setback reduced from 9.0m to 6.2m
  • side yard setbacks reduced from 4.6m to 2.2m (east) and 3.5m (west) side yards
  • landscape strip for surface parking and drive aisle reduced from 0.6m to nil (west) side yard.

Because it was just a reapplication of a previously DVP that had lapsed and there were no speakers at the Public hearing, it was quickly authorized by Council.

Requests to Address Council

It was 11:30pm by the time this agenda item came around. I was surprised to see that everyone who’d signed up to speak was still at the meeting:

Alan Rycroft with the Victoria Cool Aid Society stood up to say that he was available to respond to any questions from Council in relation to the newly awarded $50,000 that was recently received by Cool Aid for downtown community centre programming.

Hans de Goede, of Hans de Goede Development Ltd., got up to speak about the much maligned heritage efforts at  151 Oswego Street, which had been discussed at PLUC earlier that day. Mr. de Goede essentially spoke of how he’s doing his best to deal with a situation that is much larger than he realized when he took the contract.

Randy Wright got up to request Council support for a snow bird show that he is working on organizing as a fundraiser for the CH.I.L.D. Foundation. I believe he said the show will be occurring in the evening of Saturday August 12th.

Paramedic Lisa Jennings spoke of her efforts to fund a new society, called You are Not Alone, to assist other emergency service providers who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder.  It was quite sad. She was asking that the City help lobby the province for certain legal recognition regarding WorkSafe.

Gypsy Vicki then got up to speak about the failed efforts of the city to respond in an adequate manner to issues associated with those who take shelter in City parks. As a form of protest and as a means of personal safety, Vicki said she is camping on the boulevard in front of the City until they do something.

JC Scott, of JC Scott Design Associates then got up to speak in response to another issue that had been dealt with earlier in the day at PLUC, namely discussion related to Sidewalk cafes and the patio permitting process.

Other Items of Interest

Council passed amendments to the financial plan as was documented in a series of motions from GPC meetings that occurred on April 9th, 13th and 14th.

Council also passed amendments to the draft strategic plan.

Council approved the terms of reference for the Mayors Task Force on Economic Development and the Task force on Housing Affordability. The only change to what was written, was a request from Councillor Isitt to alter wording relating to the appointment of members from the Housing task force to reflect wording from the Ec Dev task force

Mayor Helps pulled her request to reconsider Council refusal to give 3rd reading to a small lot rezoning at 1330 Ivy Place. She did so because Councillor Madoff had cautioned her that to allow reconsideration as proposed, was not smart. I had argued the same thing in my Early Thoughts on this meeting.

I got up to speak about my concerns regarding the two task forces:

Of note is that, in response to my question about why was there no explicit discussion or consultation in relation to either the need or formation of the two task forces (e.g., Ec Dev and housing affordability) it was essentially argued by both Mayor Helps and Councillor Isitt that simply putting Council information online constitutes adequate consultation.

Of further note, is that members of the Mayors Ec Dev Task force were announced today with a post on the City’s website, and I have since asked Mayor Helps if the meetings  will  be public.

Task Force Tweet

No response as of yet.

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