May 14 PLUC Early Thoughts

The agenda for this week’s PLUC has lost one of it’s major projects since it was published last Thursday, but that’s ok because it’s less work for us to do. It is curious to note however that the item (a combined OCP amendment and rezoning on Caledonia)  was removed “as per applicant’s request”. I’m curious as to why?

So what else is on the agenda?

819 Yates Street – Rezoning

This item is the latest step in a multi year process to get something built on the parking lot behind the old Empire Theatre building.  According to the staff report, the property was first rezoned in 2008 to a site-specific CA-62 Zone, Central Area (Yates-View) District and then in November 2014 Council approved a Development Permit (2014 report here) for a 16-storey, mixed use building with ground-floor commercial uses and 209 residential units with associated underground parking.

What’s on the table tomorrow is rezoning for removal of provision of two  supported-housing units that had been voluntarily offered by the developer as an “additional feature” –  not in direct response to the policy requirements set out in the former Downtown Plan (1990).  Apparently this requirement was also made part of the Master Development Agreement (MDA).

As it currently stands, the two supported housing units (not yet built) are required to be rented to and occupied only by those having an income of $25,500 or less or as recognized by provincial or federal government housing agencies as the “core need income threshold” for Greater Victoria. The MDA also notes that the supported units will be managed by the Capital Regional District Housing Secretariat, including the selection of tenants.

To assist in understanding the proposal I’ve cut out the rezoning request letter from the 819 Yates Developer that gives a nice tidy summary of things. My one question that I have about it all, is what is planned for the old Empire Theatre building?

Capital Park – Development Permit Application

The purpose of this report is to present Council with information, analysis and recommendations regarding a Development Permit Application for the property located at 521-557 Superior Street and 524-584 Michigan Avenue (shown generally below):

Capital Park

The proposal is to construct Phase One and Phase Two of the Capital Park development project. These Phases are comprised of two five-storey office buildings fronting on Superior Street, a central plaza and plaza pavilion building bracketed by office buildings and a four-storey mixed-use building fronting on Menzies Street with groundfloor commercial space and 53 residential units on the upper-floors.

It is also noted within the staff report that the proposal includes underground parking and extensive landscaping with pathways, courtyards and water features. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the plans for Capital Park, both of which are totally greek to me.

The one thing I find curious is that the DP is being pursued after the rezoning was received back on March 12 – typically these things go hand in hand with our Council.

Superior St – Heritage Designation Application

According to the staff report, these are applications to designate the three houses presently located at 521, 539 and 545 Superior Street, to be relocated to 580, 588 and 584 Michigan Street and designated as Municipal Heritage Sites. This is all part of the Capital Park Development.

821-27 Broughton – Development Variance Permit

This item is for conversion of existing office space into a dentists’ office, but requires a parking variance for it to go forward.  It seems like a lot of work and a lot of money for what the report itself on the proposal considers a “minimal” impact on surrounding properties.

827 Broughton Street

As noted in the staff report, this variance if granted would facilitate ground floor use of an underused heritage building. As per Council process a public hearing will be required on the appropriateness of the variance (e.g., no dedicated parking stalls for this new service on the street), prior to it being considered by Council.

624 Battery St – Heritage Designation Application

This is a very straight forward report to present Council with information, analysis and recommendations regarding a request for heritage designation from the owner of 624 Battery Street, which is within the Battery Street Heritage Conservation Area but not on the  City of Victoria’s Register of Heritage Properties.

Because the application for designation of the building as a Municipal Heritage Site is consistent with relevant City policies and will serve to strengthen the Battery Street Heritage Conservation Area, staff are recommending that Council grant the requested designation. I assume this will go forward on the consent agenda.

New Business – Development Summit Next Steps

This is a report that summarizes staff efforts following a 2014 Development Summit that was hosted by the City and attended by community groups and developers. What I respect about the information provided with this agenda item is that direct copies of the original staff report and summit report are also provided.

What is less convenient mind you is how these items are just provided in one massive PDF that has been awkwardly chopped in two – but never fear, I have found direct links for those who are interested:

  • September 2014 Staff Report here
  • Development Summit Final Report & Action Plan here

The Development Summit is something we talked about previously in our report on the Strategic Objective #3 of Excellence in Planning & Land Use. So what will happen tomorrow? Staff recommendations are that Council:

  1. Direct staff to host a second Development Summit in June 2015 to report on progress made over the past year, provide a discussion forum for reducing application timelines, receive additional feedback and continue to strengthen relationships among the development industry, Community Association Land Use Committee representatives, Council and staff.
  2. Direct staff to bring forward feedback and an action plan based on the 2015 Development Summit by August 2015.
  3. Direct staff to report back quarterly on progress made towards reducing processing times for all types of development applications and building permits.

Of note is that the intended focus of this 2015 summit will be “timelines” and when I questioned Mayor Helps and the Acting Planning Director on what such a focus may mean for the many Victoria neighbourhood associations with ancient neighbourhood plans (e.g., documents that are supposed to set out how communities get redeveloped and built up) I was told that this “timeline” emphasis will just be on making all parties understand their roles in processing.

So we shall see what actually gets discussed tomorrow.

Closed Business

Looks like closed business for tomorrow is to appoint new members to the City’s Advisory Design panel (e.g., the folks who weigh in on various design features of large buildings and whatnot).

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