Swanson Road strata plan introduced

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A strata development proposal seeking to bring six new houses to Ganges is opening questions about how and why density should be managed in the village area.

The Salt Spring Local Trust Committee gave preliminary consideration on April 27 to a rezoning application submitted by Sea Isle Development Group for 114 Swanson Rd. Representative Dale Rivers said the company has been working on plans for the land for close to a decade, and had originally planned to build a 12-unit townhouse complex similar to their Park Place Estates development. The current plan is for six single-family homes, with the seniors market in mind.

While the LTC allowed the application to advance by requesting a number of professional reports, proof of water supply and connection to Ganges sewer, the trustees predicted the way forward would be difficult for the applicant given the nature of the request.

“In terms of land-use density, this is 1.2 acres. It’s actually a tiny lot, and six dwellings on that lot strikes me as an awful lot,” said committee chair Peter Luckham, who added his inclination was to vote the application go no further.

“There are a lot of hurdles here and I’m not sure the applicant is going to be able to meet all those hurdles,” he said.

The applicant’s former plans for the property were upended in part by the 2014 moratorium on new connections to the North Salt Spring Waterworks District. Rivers said Sea Isle has since drilled two wells and the capacity is double what is needed to supply six homes. The developer will still need to be licensed as a water utility through the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, which is a lengthy and often difficult process. 

Trustee Laura Patrick was not as concerned about adding density in the neighbourhood for the right reasons, noting the Valhalla Road subdivision on the next street over has 12 homes on a similar-sized lot. The type of housing proposed caused more concern, however. Patrick underlined the almost complete lack of housing for workers and proposed having a mixed-use strata that didn’t focus on one demographic would be more appropriate. 

An additional resolution the LTC passed last Tuesday requires Sea Isle to revise the application with consideration of a community amenity in exchange for the increased value rezoning would bring. Trustees would like to see rental and/or affordable housing factored into the project.

Regional planning manager Stefan Cermak reported that a one-to-one amenity exchange had been required for a rezoning nearby. Since the Swanson Road property zoning allows a duplex now and an additional four dwellings are requested, Cermak said two of the four units could be designated as the amenity.

Rivers said the company was open to mixed use and other possibilities, but he also noted that high construction costs would make it difficult to build anything “affordable.” Those costs have gone from around $350 per square foot a year and a half ago to $500. The homes being planned would total about 1,400 square feet each. 

The project was also the topic of a delegation by Jenny McClean earlier in the day. McClean asked the LTC to hold off on the application until the Ganges village planning project proceeds further on its work. She also brought up potential water drainage problems in the neighbourhood, where her family owns property, and said she was waiting for a hydrology report that could provide more information. 

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