Commissioners agreed Sept. 17 that development guidelines have been met in an application to build ‘Phase Two’ of Madrona Mall in the Village at the corner of North and South roads.
However the Advisory Planning Commission (APC) also said the development permit application could go further regarding guidelines that require the incorporation of “such amenities as public walkways and outdoor open spaces for use by the public”, and that “(n)atural vegetation and trees shall be retained or planted and maintained for screening of parking and storage areas, and to enhance the atmosphere of public open spaces”.
As the APC was meeting for the first time this term, Regional Planning Manager Chris Jackson, who was standing in for Planner Chloe Fox, opened the meeting at the Islands Trust northern office on North Road with a brief overview of the commission’s role and responsibilities.
Fox was unable to attend the meeting as she is not allowed to put in overtime due to a union action.
Commissioner and former Trustee Deborah Ferens asked why nine of the parking stalls for Phase One will be built in Phase Two, creating a total of 69 new stalls. Applicant Chris Hock said because the guidelines require low-lying buildings and landscaping there was not enough room to get all the required parking stalls into Phase One. However, “you are allowed to use another property if it’s adjoining with the same zoning”, he said.
Commissioner Nancy Crozier asked if there was a pathway proposed to go towards the Lions’ seniors’ residence on Argyle Lane. Hock said there is a “18 to 20 acre” property between the proposed Madrona development and the Lions’ apartments that is not his property.
As previously reported, in the interest of “connectivity”, at the last Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting Trustee Gisele Rudischer suggested that the applicants run a path through the back of their property towards the Lions home, even though it will stop at the property line, as a way of providing the opportunity for a future connector, or of encouraging the current neighbour to allow a pathway through his property.
Hock said there will be a 25 by 144 foot, 10,000 square foot corridor along North Road, and a walkway within that space. He said there will be 7,000 square feet of building space at the new mall, and that proportionally the allotted corridor space is very high. He said this corridor will be much larger than the strip between North Road and the parking lot in Phase One.
The plans show a corridor that includes the lot set-backs, and a walkway along the front of the buildings at what is currently the bottom of an incline that slopes gently from the road to where the T and T garage was, and then more steeply towards the first phase of the development.
Hock said the corridor will be open public space and is “the most usable space on the property, really”. Ferens asked if the applicants intended to build benches in the corridor. Hock said they can’t, because the corridor is in the lot set-back where structures are not allowed.
Jackson said if the APC thought it was a good idea to have benches there they could recommend the applicant apply for a development variance permit (DVP) which would allow a “minor (relaxation) of the bylaw”. He said if the APC believes a variance is required to ensure the development will look as it should in the future, “well then, this is the time to do it”.
A DVP costs about $150, Jackson said, and is submitted for comment to both neighbours and the LTC, and can run concurrently to the development permit application. He also noted that once the permit application has been approved, lot owners will only be required to abide by what is in the permit. He said this was the time to propose changes the APC thought were needed.
Ferens asked if there was somewhere people could walk off the path and sit down. Hock said they could use the corridor beside the walkway. Ferens asked whether the Phase Two pathway will connect up with one in Phase One. Hock said although they wanted to put in a pathway along the road in Phase One they would have to pull down the trees to do so. He said they want to build a boardwalk that winds between the trees. He said originally the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure wouldn’t allow them to do this, but now the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is looking into taking on the sidewalks and trails function, this may change.
APC Chair Lisa Webster-Gibson asked whether the “Heather, Flax, and select shrubbery” described in the permit application meet the guidelines’ requirement of natural species for landscaping. Jackson said that it was really up to the APC to decide whether what is proposed is “natural”. Hock said they were also “looking for drought-tolerant” plants for use in their application.
Ferens said she would like to see as much natural vegetation as possible and that other drought-resistant plants be minimised “because the natural vegetation … is here because it is drought-resistant normally”.
Applicant Lana Pearson said they are trying to maintain as many of the trees as possible. Ferens suggested they could use natural vegetation such as salal to replace vegetation that has been removed.
Commissioner Deb Scott asked if areas identified on the map as ‘green space’ at the back of the lot and beside the building are actual green spaces or if they will be developed. Hock said they may be developed in the future, in which case the owners will have to apply for another development permit.
Scott asked if that space could be used as public space or if green space just means “undeveloped”. Jackson said generally it means there are no structures there.
Webster-Gibson asked if there are percentage guidelines for green space in DPAs. Jackson said there were only guidelines for building lot coverage. He said if the APC thought green space coverage should be more defined, they could make a recommendation to the LTC that future development permit guidelines include percentages.
Webster-Gibson said the development looks “very strippy” because it is long and narrow. She wondered if there were some way green space could be used to “detract from that strippiness”. Hock said the guidelines call for low-lying structures with parking at the back, which makes it “pretty much impossible” to do anything else.
Scott asked if the applicants will be using vegetation to cut noise pollution. Pearson said they wanted to use Japanese Maples to add contrast to the green backgrounds.
Crozier wondered if shade islands could be provided in the parking lot. Hock said they have a few planned. He said other parking would be behind the building, and would not be visible from the road. He added that too many obstructions in the parking lot would be dangerous.
The commission resolved to tell the LTC that the applicant “has met the guidelines, and when they are drafting the wording for the permit, that they consider the (APC’s) diversity of opinion regarding native vegetation and public seating”.
The APC also moved that the LTC consider refining the Village core development permit guidelines to clarify the term “natural vegetation”, and establish more prescriptive guidelines for green space and parks.
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