A development permit passed Thursday by the Local Trust Committee (LTC) is ‘disappointing’, Trustee Gisele Rudischer said Thursday at the LTC meeting at the WI Hall.
Nevertheless, she said, she would not vote against the permit, which allows Phase Two of the Madrona Mall development on North Road to proceed.
Rudischer said feedback from a workshop held last term on Village core planning includes “over two dozen mentions” asking for connectivity of walkways that are pedestrian and bicycle friendly and for green-spaces and benches. But “it just seems to me that we’re not really fulfilling any of these” by allowing the developers to proceed according to the conditions in their permit, she said.
Benches and vegetation
Trustees reviewed the Madrona application in light of recommendations from the Advisory Planning Commission that the LTC consider “permitting benches and native vegetation within the wording of the permit”.
As previously reported, the area that developers Lana Pearson and Chris Hock have allowed for public space is along North Road and is primarily composed of the required lot setbacks from the lot’s boundaries. Structures, such as benches, are not allowed in setbacks.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson asked: “If the Land Use Bylaw was to be changed, is it possible to make it so that if this applicant wanted to put benches in the setback” they wouldn’t have to apply for a development variance permit (DVP) to do so.
Planner Chloe Fox said they could add a comment in the landscaping section of the development permit saying that benches would be “encouraged”. But she said the developers would still have to apply for a DVP to install the benches. Reached for clarification on Friday, she said a DVP would cost $750, now that the original permit application has been granted.
Rudischer thought the current development permit guidelines are not specific enough to deliver what the community wants, and guessed that it was “too much to expect” that developers will provide public space when it is tied to commercial floor space. “What’s in it for a landowner to provide public space instead of parking? They lose commercial space when they do that”, she said. She said it seemed that the Madrona development permit “is not very effective”.
“We are getting a big area of public space”, Rudischer acknowledged, “but it’s a setback and it’s along the road and if we don’t even have benches, how usable is it”?
Rudischer said the development permit guidelines will have to be more specific next time, “especially with regard to connectivity with other properties, because (Phase Two) doesn’t connect with anything. Even Phase One doesn’t have a walkway, and to put one in is going to require a $750 development permit for a boardwalk”.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson said their predicament was “totally our responsibility; it has nothing to do with the landowner”. She said these issues were identified previously “and we’ve chosen to focus our planner time on other parts of the bylaw and haven’t been looking at this”.
As previously reported, the LTC is still working on Official Community Plan (OCP) review items from last term. No timeline has yet been set for when they will address the rest of the review items on their agenda.
Rudischer said they could have asked for “walkways that actually connected to something”. Malcolmson said they can ask for it but there is nothing to compel it. She said “you can’t get connectivity except over time”. Rudischer said “over time doesn’t work unless you start somewhere”. Malcolmson said “you can’t say we require connectivity when there’s nothing to connect to, and it’s our bylaws that are preventing us from asking for more”. Rudischer said: “You’re never going to have something to connect to if you don’t start somewhere”.
Malcolmson said this is why their “wish list for our bylaw amendments say that you’ll have a pathway plan written into the Village area so that it’s really clear that when an applicant comes forward”, they have to tie into the pathway. She said they haven’t done this yet.
Rudischer said they have a plan that already shows a walkway all the way up Phase One. Malcolmson said that they didn’t require that walkway in the Phase One development permit.
Rudischer said she was really disappointed that they couldn’t deliver “anything the community wants”. Malcolmson said that was why development permits are on their OCP review list.
Rudischer said the problem was that you can’t really expect to have public space on private property. She said the LTC would have to explain to the community that public space in the Village core will have to be publicly owned.
LTC Chair David Graham said land can be obtained through amenity zoning – or the provision of additional development potential in exchange for an amenity. Rudischer thought they’d be better off trading a reduction on the parking requirements for public space. Hock said the biggest problem with providing public space on private land is that the insurance requirements are so expensive.
The LTC moved to add a statement to the development permit “permitting and encouraging” benches throughout the property, and then granted the permit as amended.
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