Updated: Mar 12
West Bay Neighbourhood Design Guidelines
Many BC municipalities have developed neighborhood design guidelines to support their future growth objectives. An Official Community Plan (OCP) sets out a municipality’s overarching direction and goals. Design guidelines align with these broader objectives while considering the distinctive character and unique qualities of established areas and neighbourhoods.
West Bay is the only neighbourhood area in Esquimalt that has Design Guidelines. They were established to ensure that future densification and development enhances the unique character and community vibe in West Bay, its protected natural areas, and its connection to the harbour. The West Bay Neighbourhood Design Guidelines (WB Guidelines) were approved by Council in September 2015 and form part of the Township of Esquimalt’s OCP as Development Permit Area No.11 West Bay.
What is the purpose of design guidelines? In the absence of design guidelines people in an area may not recognize or even be able to define what good neighborhood design is or its importance until they notice that it is missing. Design guidelines provide an agreed upon plan and quality design features that help to ensure new development supports and enhances the unique characteristics of a community and place.
The Township hired well known architect and urban planner Frank D’Ambrosio and his team to lead the planning process and develop the guidelines. His leadership proved that when a process is credible and done right, the outcome will be accepted and supported by the community. After more than a decade of divisive debate around an appropriate type of development for the Triangle Lands, located at the foot of Head Street, the WB Guidelines helped inform the final design of the West Bay Quay, currently under construction and widely considered a good fit for the neighbourhood.
All sectors and those with interests in the West Bay Community were brought together to undertake a collaborative community-based process to clearly define the attributes and characteristics that make West Bay unique and create a sense of place and community identity. They worked across the table from one another to address local concerns such as density, height, massing, the interface between the built and natural environments, social interaction, livability, sustainability and commercial vitality.
The result was the creation of the WB Guidelines and its detailed design features that help to integrate new development into the community at an appropriate scale and quality, while protecting the qualities that make West Bay special and unique. The WB Guidelines were supported by the community as a whole and approved by Council.
The WB Guideline’s policies and detailed design features were created in support of key design principles that everyone at the planning table were able to agree to, including:
• Strong connection to the waterfront: Maintain and enhance visual and physical connections to the harbour and waterfront trail network. • A walkable neighbourhood: Ensure buildings present a friendly face to streets and open spaces to make them active, attractive and inviting to pedestrians. Make connections within and to adjacent neighbourhoods to make walking easy. • Human scale: Use architectural features, details, and site design elements that are of human proportion and clearly oriented for public, pedestrian activity. A building has good human scale if its details, elements, and materials allow people to feel comfortable using and approaching it on foot. • Waterfront ecology: Enhance, restore and celebrate the unique marine and upland ecology. Layer and integrate mobility, recreation, stormwater, habitat and ecological systems. • Waterfront community & identity: Ensure building and open space design that supports and enhances the unique sense of community and identity, including its architectural and marine heritage. More broadly, this includes the rich natural and human history of the area and associated expression of local culture, festivals, and gathering at and near the water’s edge. • Neighbourliness: Ensure new development responds positively to the existing context by ensuring a sensitive transition in scale, by minimizing view and shadow impacts, and by responding to the positive design characteristics, if only subtly, of adjacent development.
The WB Guidelines, while not overly prescriptive in nature, provide strong design objectives and requirements for developers hoping to introduce new development into the community. They are also an effective decision-making tool for the Township as they provide a framework against which to consider development proposal requests and their appropriateness for the community. Design guidelines are an effective planning tool when they are followed and adhered to as part of the development process.
Esquimalt as a whole is growing at a rapid rate. The development of design guidelines for all neighbourhoods, commercial areas and key transportation corridors will result in a common vision among residents as to how that growth will occur. Design Guidelines are a critical tool towards ensuring the Esquimalt of tomorrow maintains the quality and characteristics that make it special and unique today.
Link to Guidelines