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Site for mammoth building clears hurdle

Jul 20 2012
A seven-storey, 137-metre-long building could be constructed on the waterfront at Point Hope Shipyard. 

A seven-storey, 137-metre-long building could be constructed on the waterfront at Point Hope Shipyard.

Photograph by: Arnold Lim , timescolonist.com (July 2012)

Victoria city councillors helped clear the way Thursday for a seven-storey building longer than a football field that could be built on the waterfront at Point Hope Shipyard.

The city's planning and land use committee recommended that council approve variances that would enable Ralmax Group of Companies, which operates Point Hope Maritime, to build a sevenstorey building as long as 137 metres on the north end of a city-owned lot the company leases at 345 Harbour Rd. near Dockside Green.

In making the recommendation, committee members hoped that if the building is built, the impact of its size could be mitigated by sensitive design and siting.

Ralmax has no specific building plans for the site, senior city planner Jarret Matanowitsch said of the city-initiated application. But the changes would enable the company to build a larger building at the north end of Point Hope than is currently allowed.

Any new building would also be subject to development-permit approval which would allow council to have input on issues such as exterior design and finishing, and landscaping.

The proposal is to vary the Official Community Plan and Harbour Road Industrial Waterfront Design Guidelines, changing the maximum allowable building height on the site to 21 metres (the equivalent of seven residential storeys) from the current stepped height limits of three metres, 15 metres and 19 metres. Guidelines that call for a maximum wall length of 50 metres with a minimum 18 metres separation between buildings would be changed to allow for a single building as long as 137 metres.

Matanowitsch told the committee the proposal does not jeopardize the two main view corridors to the north and the south of the site. And while not entirely consistent with Harbour Road Industrial Waterfront Design Guidelines in terms of height and length, it does advance city policies supporting a working harbour, he said.

Ian Maxwell, owner of Ralmax, told the Times Colonist this week he has been awaiting word on whether the company can build a new $6-million, 30,000-square-foot machine shop on the southern part of the shipyard - where necessary zoning and height allowances are in place - or have to move the project to the north of the property to make room for the city's Johnson Street Bridge replacement project.

Maxwell said Point Hope expects to hear next month if the southern portion of the site will be required by the city for bridge construction work.

All three committee members recommended extensive community consultation before any development of the size contemplated proceeds.

Coun. Pam Madoff said the proposal makes sense in terms of fostering economic development and a working harbour.

"Unfortunately at this stage it's difficult to see how it's supportable from an urban design point of view," Madoff said.

She said the ultimate orientation of the building on the site may help with protecting views, but that's not the only issue.

"It's not just views that make an environment hospitable. It's the notion of 137 metres of a solid wall. What is going to provide the respite for folks who are walking along that walkway?" Madoff said.

"It's an interesting interaction because it's not just the working harbour but it's also the neighbourhood that we've created adjacent to it and the environment we're creating for the thousands of people who come through on the Galloping Goose [Trail]."

Coun. Lisa Helps said she will look for creative solutions to break up the impact of such a long wall.

"I would strongly urge the applicant to meet with the residents of Dockside and maybe even hold a public meeting for users of the Galloping Goose Trail to take into consideration what it is the community would like to look at as they bike past or walk past," Helps said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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