A controversial development that some residents say will force them out of a View Royal apartment complex has been given the green light by council.
View Royal councillors voted 3-2 in favour of the new $200-million development on Christie Point Tuesday night.
It will replace 161 existing apartments of two-level rental housing with 473 brand-new units in six storeys, despite complaints that the new design is an “eyesore” that will push current tenants out in favour of higher rents.
“I think it was a very difficult decision for council. We know the community is split, council is split. There’s been a lot of emotion,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech. “The development is obviously affecting people who live there now, so yes, I think it was a difficult decision for all of us but I think when looking at the big picture, we’ve made the right decision moving forward.”
The decision follows a public hearing in which council heard from residents living in the units.
Developer Realstar says tenants who have lived at the complex for 10 years or more will still be able to rent at the same rate, while others will be given a year’s notice and help with moving expenses – as well as first right of refusal on the new units.
Some residents think that’s not good enough.
“I know my wife and I, we're not going to be able to stay here really because the rents are going to be skyrocketing,” said Ted Mills, who has lived at Christie Point for more than a year. “The only thing that they’re gonna do is they’re grandfathering in the rents for the people that have been here at least 10 years, which does about 80 per cent of the people here no good whatsoever.”
Screech, who voted in favour of the project, said he had the region’s current rental crisis in mind when casting his vote.
“I think the rental housing crisis is the big sway for me,” he said. “We haven’t had purpose-built rental built in the CRD basically for over three decades by private developers and we need to encourage that, we need to see that happen and we’re not going to solve the rental crisis by not allowing change to happen.”
Others say the project will have a negative environmental impact on the sensitive Portage Inlet, and that the much bigger buildings will stick out like a sore thumb in the area.
“The buildings obviously need some work. They should be basically replaced, there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Mills. “But to put up six storeys in a place like this is absolutely gonna be an eyesore.”
Screech says those concerns were also weighed before council made its decision.
“I truly believe that it’ll actually be a net environmental gain when it’s finished,” he said, adding that storm water on site is currently pumped untreated into the inlet – something that will change with the new development.
The developer and architect behind the project say Christie Point will benefit the community for generations to come.
“Our idea is to make growth and accommodating more people as painless as possible,” said architect Franc D’Ambrosio. “It is an urbanized area, the official community plan wanted it, but it’s up to us through design to eventually make it blend in so that it will hopefully appear, after it’s finished for a few years, that it was always there.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Louise Hartland