Just hours after its public hearing, a School Road strata housing development came very close to defeat.
Given a reprieve from the filing cabinet of dead developments, the project was instead thrown back for developer discussions at the July 26 Town of Gibsons council meeting.
The proposal for a 16-unit strata building at 757 School Road (at the corner of O’Shea) was asking for a rezoning from single-family residential to multi-family residential and reduction in the required parking spaces from 24 to 18.
Reception among councillors has been mixed as concerns for parking, as well as concerns about spot upzoning, came up against the housing crisis and the climate crisis’s need to reduce vehicle dependency. Council had heard parking concerns echoed in the submissions to the public hearing earlier that day. Of particular concern is that council reduced parking requirements for the supportive housing at 749 School Road a few years ago and now parking is a struggle in the area.
Mayor Bill Beamish opened his comments by saying he would be voting against the development because of the parking situation. “We created the monster when we gave a variance to the supportive housing, the monster is continuing.” He added there’s no temporary solution that would satisfy him on the parking, pointing to the need to follow the bylaw. “You either put the parking on the site that is required to service the site, or you build a smaller project.”
Coun. Stafford Lumley, believing the development to be rental housing (other councillors said this had been the case in earlier versions of the project), initially moved to give the rezoning third reading, which Coun. David Croal seconded.
Upon realizing that this was strata housing, Lumley withdrew his motion, but as Croal had seconded, the motion was still on the table.
With Beamish and Coun. Aleria Ladwig already vocally opposed, and Lumley switching sides, the writing was on the wall for the development. If this vote went through, the project would be sent back to the beginning, or die.
A disgruntled Croal said, “What we’re essentially doing is killing one project because we can’t enforce a bylaw that we have in place with respect to another project. We gave BC Housing permission to reduce the parking on their site. And it’s turned out to be a bit of a problem. But it’s a problem of our creating.”
Croal pointed to the dire need for housing in the community.
Ladwig, who has consistently voted against the rezoning, said she was in favour of “increasing density in strategic locations,” cheaper to build on and without the ocean view (as ocean view doesn’t lend itself to affordability), but that this was not one. She said she’d like to see reduced density for the project.
Lumley said rental housing is much more needed than condos. “I have no faith in people building condos,” he said. “The same thing happened right down the street on School Road, where these things are being sold for a million dollars. And that’s not entry-level housing at all.”
Coun. Annemarie De Andrade said she’s been sympathetic to the project, given the need for accessible housing, but that she’s been struggling with the increased density aspect.
Beamish reminded Croal that if he too withdrew his seconding, council wouldn’t have to vote on it and the proposal could go back for amendments. Croal agreed to do that.
So, with the instructions for lower density and adequate parking, council sent the project back to the developer. That motion passed with Croal against.