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Council seeks design control on new residential, commercial developments

Apr 07 2012

Victoria's new official community plan could significantly expand council's control over design of larger residential and commercial buildings by introducing a new development permit area.

The OCP is a statement of objectives and policies providing a blueprint for community planning and land use. Victoria's OCP was last updated in 1995 and, after two years of work and consultation with about 6,000 people, it could go to public hearing in June.

Proposed changes would have residential developments of three or more units and new commercial and industrial developments needing design approval - even if they already had the necessary zoning. That possibility has some councillors worried such an approval process could add months of delay and provide one more reason for development to leave for other jurisdictions with less red tape.

The proposed development permit area, DPA 16, would cover the entire city and apply to residential developments of three or more units and to commercial and industrial properties that are already zoned for those purposes but are not within an existing DPA or heritage conservation area.

City planning staff say the DPA would result in about a dozen new applications a year.

Mayor Dean Fortin said DPA 16 would not deal with issues of height or density.

"What we are saying is, if this is what you're going to build, we want input on how it looks."

Fortin doesn't want that to mean adding a layer of bureaucracy that takes three to six months to navigate. "I want the best of both worlds," he said.

Council will follow a suggestion by Coun. Marianne Alto for a staff report on the pros and cons of delegating approval decisions on certain development permit applications to expedite the process.

"I think it's worth - looking for efficiencies in the application process," Alto said.

However, Pam Madoff is one councillor who disagreed with that sentiment.

"In a city like Victoria, I don't think we can separate how it functions from how it looks," Madoff said. "I'm not looking to be in competition with any other jurisdiction other than to do the very best job that we can do for the kind of city that we have and the city that we want."

The OCP is otherwise much the same as the draft circulated a year ago with broad objectives that include:

- Focusing employment growth in the urban core, town centres, employment districts and along corridors serviced by rapid transit.

- Developing Rock Bay as an employment centre specializing in incubation, growth and retention of advanced clean technology and green enterprise.

- Having a range of housing suitable to people with a mix of incomes in all neighbourhoods.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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