Islanders Working Against Violence will be appearing before the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee on July 28 hoping to secure a development permit and some variances needed for the final phase of an affordable housing development at Croftonbrook.
Construction on the Phase-2 apartment complex for seniors is proceeding, with work on the 22-unit building now underway. Phase 3 will be a multi-family building with 34 units.
“Our goal is to really create affordability and accessibility. For people that are having lower incomes, it’s really really hard to find housing,” IWAV executive director Kisae Petersen told the Driftwood. “It’s a good mix, and we’re really excited to provide housing to families, to people working in the community, and people needing clean new housing.”
IWAV is requesting to increase the numbers of storeys permitted in the final building from two to three, with a total height variance of 1.9 metres (just over six feet). The development variance permit application also includes requests to decrease the setbacks from a waterbody.
The project has received funding from government agencies and comes with a 60-year operating agreement with BC Housing. A change to the program through which the BC Housing funds are flowing, however, means that 18 units previously planned to serve people experiencing homelessness are no longer part of the picture.
The current program provides for 20 per cent of the total units in Phases 2 and 3 to be subsidized housing rented at shelter allowance rates. Another 50 per cent will offer rents geared to individuals’ income levels, and the final 30 per cent will be at “near market rates.”
The construction project has not been welcomed by some people who already live at Croftonbrook. Residents of the original duplex homes for seniors and people with disabilities say they have been severely impacted by Phase-2 construction noise and don’t want to continue having their lives disturbed for the next year or more.
Resident Jessica Garceau has submitted several letters to planners regarding the impact.
“Too much is being asked of this vulnerable population and its neighbours and even IWAV itself,” Garceau said in a letter dated June 26. “IWAV shouldn’t bear the brunt for the whole of Salt Spring’s affordable housing issues and if they choose to do so, they shouldn’t place it all here. This is not their work site, this is our homes, however modest.”
Petersen said that IWAV is very aware of that impact. The timing of Phase 2 has been unfortunate with people stuck in their homes during the pandemic at the same time that major projects to lay in utilities and adjust the main entrance road have been taking place.
With that in mind, a three-week break in construction has been scheduled in August. Petersen said the work to install utilities and other systems covered both phases, so at least there will not be a repeat of that noise when Phase 3 begins. IWAV does not support shortening the construction day, however, since that will just make the overall period longer.
Opposition to the proposed variance has also been registered by the Cottonwood Close strata residents living next door, who do not wish to see a three-storey building anywhere on the property. The strata additionally objects to a plan to divert the brook.
IWAV had initially asked for a three-storey building in its earlier rezoning application. The organization removed that request after people became concerned about the fact it would have theoretically applied to the entire lot — which Petersen said was an unintended consequence. The DVP is a more appropriate tool, she said, because it applies to just one specific building.
Going to three storeys was the result of multiple draft designs. Petersen explained it would allow IWAV to include all 34 units in a smaller footprint that is outside Cottonwood Close sight lines. If the three-storey plan is denied, she said that will mean more months of design time to finalize an L-shaped model. Part of that building would then be within the sight lines. It would also be closer to existing residents and be much more costly for both construction and operations.
Complicating the siting issue are a number of constraints that limit the possibilities of where a new building could be placed, including the odd lot shape and its geography. A steep rocky section would require blasting plus more removal of trees and soil if the building was moved further north. Petersen said IWAV prefers to leave as much of the mature second-growth forest as possible.
The development variance permit is being considered alongside the development permit for the residential building and a separate suite of offices on the same property. IWAV intends to move six staff people to the Croftonbrook site from the space they currently lease in the Ganges courthouse building.
Petersen noted that sharing the space can be problematic for IWAV clients who are fleeing domestic violence. And in addition to the financial gain from not paying the lease to another body, having staff in place at Croftonbrook could benefit that community.
“It will be good to be present on the property. I think in some ways that will create more access to our services,” Petersen said.
The July 28 LTC meeting will be held electronically. See the meeting calendar on the Salt Spring page at islandstrust.bc.ca for information on how to participate.