Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Wexford Developments’ proposal for the corner of Dunsmuir Road and West Bay Terrace, one of numerous developments proposed or underway in West Bay, goes to Public Hearing on November 15.
105 rental units in a 6-story building covering 5 lots on the corner of West Bay Terrace and Dunsmuir Rd.
The West Bay Residents Association (WBRA) understands the importance of densification and the need to provide more housing. We welcome developments that align with the West Bay Neighbourhood Design Guidelines (Guidelines).
The Township of Esquimalt’s OCP states:
“The West Bay Neighbourhood is a neighbourhood with unique characteristics that is under increasing development pressure. In order to retain the form and character of the neighbourhood while at the same time allowing redevelopment to occur, a set of robust design guidelines is required.”
These Guidelines now form part of the OCP (DPA No.11: West Bay).
The current OCP land use designation for the five lots in question is Medium Density Residential (allowing up to 6 storeys) but the West Bay Neighbourhood Guidelines are for a 4-storey limit.
WBRA has significant reservations regarding the proposal’s height and mass, and considers the scale of the proposed building too massive a presence for the surrounding community. Equally, WBRA wants to focus in on the existing homes and consider who currently lives there. They are our neighbours.
Current residents are facing renoviction during a desperate housing crisis that will force many to leave Esquimalt and look for housing in more remote areas, if indeed they can remain housed at all. On the other hand, residents have been offered discounted rent in the proposed development and assistance in relocating. However, at this time they do not know the terms, or the timeline for relocation and or potential return to their neighbourhood.
Please meet Jessica Walsh. Jessica and her son moved in to the complex nine years after being renovicted from the Triangle Lands to allow for the soon to be completed West Bay Quay development. They love their West Bay neighbourhood and hope they can find a way to continue living in Esquimalt.
Like all the existing units, Jessica’s is on the more affordable side and well located, but is in poor condition. She pays $1,036.51 per month for a two bedroom unit. Jessica thinks if they move they will have to pay double that in the current rental market. It is stressful to consider how you manage that and keep your child in the same catchment area, Jessica says - in an understated way. They are counting on Wexford’s relocation support.
At the September 27th Council Meeting, the bad maintenance and current condition of the complex was used by the proponent as an argument to develop, an argument with which Mayor and Council agreed (6 yea, 1 nay). While the current complex is without question in a state of disrepair, this should not be the motivating factor to approve a development that is not a good fit to the surrounding established area.
The proposal is for 105 rental units in a 6-story building covering 5 lots. Council spent time discussing parking, and only once mentioned concern about current residents. One Councillor, Lynda Hundleby, spoke to the impact of the building on the neighbourhood and voted against. Certainly, the developers show optimism about their success, having bought the properties in the summer.
There are aspects of the proposal that the WBRA does support including a pet-friendly policy, developer management once operational, exterior access on the main floor units, the storm drain-water management systems, public seating, and some designated green spaces.
However, the developers advised that the stand of old growth fir trees adjacent to 534 and 538 West Bay Terrace will be removed. These trees, some over one hundred feet in height, are central to the area’s urban canopy; they are also significant habitat for not just the neighbourhood but the entire region. For example, they provide lookouts for hunting raptors, and are vital to complex underground flora systems. Cities are only just starting to address the importance of urban habitat protection and enhancement. In this era of climate emergency, it is important to put this proposed development within the context of the urban carrying capacity (considering what is truly sustainable) for this small neighbourhood. WBRA urges protection of these mature trees.
Wexford Development’s proposal highlights these issues for our community to consider: building mass and height, affordable housing, renovictions, urban canopy loss, and urban carrying capacity (balancing population, infrastructure, ecological impact, well-being.)
You can address your concerns to the Mayor and Council. Please write to the Township and attend:
Council Chambers/or get on the list for call in
Sadly we are losing more and more of our green canopy, community biodiversity and these type of larger specimens that serve as important wildlife habitat. Many in the community questions why the protection of our larger trees is not made a priority, requiring developers to ensure their protection and preservation by creating adequate protection zones and building them into their development plans.