A proposed development in Langford’s core is facing major backlash from neighbours, who say the plans compromise safety and livability on their quiet residential street.
The western half of Fairway Avenue is a single block in length, lined primarily by single-family homes and no sidewalks. It is located in the heart of Langford, sandwiched between Veterans Memorial Parkway, Goldstream Avenue and the Royal Colwood Golf Course. The proposal would replace three Fairway Avenue homes with a large multi-family complex and townhouses. A second multi-family development and commercial space would replace two adjacent single-family homes on Goldstream Avenue. Vehicular traffic for all buildings would access the complex via Fairway Avenue.
The proposal has been amended twice in response to neighbourhood concerns, from a maximum height of 12 storeys to six. Most recently, at an emotional meeting of the planning, zoning and affordable housing committee, a representative of the developer said the proposal could include two six-storey buildings, rather than one of six storeys and one of nine storeys.
But residents say the concessions are far from adequate. “The building is going to destroy my neighbourhood and the committee does not even care,” says J. Scott, a resident of Fairway Avenue and organizer of Fairway Neighbours Unite, which formed in response to the proposed development.
Residents are calling for the height of the buildings to be reduced to four storeys, among other concessions. The land must be rezoned before the development can go ahead. The city expects to hear the first reading of the bylaw amendment at a council meeting next month, with a public hearing to follow. The 647 Goldstream Ave. proposal had been set for first reading at the council meeting on January 18, but it was postponed due to an error in the meeting agenda.
A changing development proposal
On Monday, Jan. 11, the planning, zoning and affordable housing committee discussed a development proposal for two residential buildings that would be located at 647 Goldstream Ave. and accessed using Fairway Avenue, just behind Goldstream Avenue. The original building proposal was for two twelve-storey buildings, according to a report in the meeting’s agenda package, but was then amended to a nine-storey building and a six-storey building after residents voiced their concerns over the height of the buildings. This amended proposal was brought to the Jan. 11 meeting and was further changed to two six-storey buildings at that meeting following input from residents.
As initially proposed at the meeting, the buildings would contain approximately 200 residential units, including some townhome units along Fairway Avenue. There would also be commercial units along Goldstream Avenue. The site where the buildings would stand is made up of five separate single-family residential properties that were consolidated into one property.
Residents at the meeting were opposed to the development size, citing concerns over traffic congestion and safety.
“I’ve just learned of a new development proposed for the 600-block of Fairway & Goldstream Avenues across from Veteran’s Park,” one resident wrote to Matthew Baldwin, the City of Langford’s director of planning. “It increases my concern about the traffic load on Fairway Avenue. Fairway is a small laneway without sidewalks and does not have the capacity for increased traffic without endangering pedestrians.”
Another resident wrote to Mayor Stew Young saying the development proposal is too large.
“Goldstream is already unable to hold the traffic that pours onto it daily. Fairway Avenue is a narrow street with no sidewalks and no room for cars to safely pass,” the resident writes. “Please hold this proposed development to the four-storey roofline that exists on the 600 block of Goldstream. Plan exits and entrances on both Goldstream and Fairway Avenues.”
The staff report in the agenda package says a traffic impact assessment was sent to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for their review and approval. The report says the ministry “did not recommend any intersection improvements as part of this development” and that the ministry also agreed with the recommendation that no additional road improvements are required beyond the immediate frontage of the development site.
In addition to height, residents voiced concerns over pedestrian safety. There are no sidewalks on Fairway Avenue so residents say pedestrians tend to walk on the road or along residential properties. They say increased traffic and road blockages due to construction will make walking along the road hazardous. They are concerned that with cars parked on either side of the street, it will not leave sufficient room for two-way traffic.
During the committee meeting, City of Langford staff explained vehicle traffic would increase due to construction and an increase in neighbourhood population. Residents say they are worried their street will become inaccessible with this increase in traffic.
After hearing concerns from various community members at the meeting, the proposal was amended again to a development of two, six-storey buildings, but community members still say that is too large for the neighbourhood.
The group Fairway Neighbours Unite, which has formed in opposition to this development, says on its website that six storeys is still too tall for Fairway Avenue. The group is asking for height reductions to four storeys, sidewalks and an entrance and exit onto Goldstream Avenue. The group is also asking for a “proper smoking area” within the development complex.
Residents feel they’re not being heard
Kyla Moughtin lives within 100 metres of the proposed development. At the meeting, she said she thinks Langford is developing “without consideration of the community.”
Another community member who attended the meeting said they were worried about the company that has been hired to construct the buildings as well.
The construction company Design Build Services was hired to build the new development. It’s the same construction company that built the now-vacant Danbrook One building in Langford’s core, which was ruled structurally unstable nearly one year ago, the Goldstream News Gazette reports. Danbrook One residents had to vacate the building just before Christmas in 2019.
In an email to Mayor Stew Young, a resident says “this community really does not need two giant towers built by Design Build Services, especially after the Danbrook One debacle.”
The Discourse reached out to Design Build Services for comment but has not yet received a response.
Given this recent history with the Danbrook One, residents – in writing and at the meeting – have questioned the integrity of Design Build Services and whether or not this new development would be safe.
City of Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell — who is also chair of the planning, zoning and affordable housing committee — told members of the public at the meeting that “discussing the developer and construction company is highly inappropriate.”
In an interview with The Discourse, Blackwell says the fault in the Danbrook One was due to an error in engineering, not in construction.
“It is highly unlikely this would ever happen again,” Blackwell says.
Scott, the spokesperson for the Fairway Neighbours Unite group, says she is upset with what she sees as the city’s disregard for residents’ concerns. Scott says her neighbourhood does not have sufficient infrastructure to maintain two large residential buildings and increased traffic. According to Scott, Fairway residents have been writing letters in opposition to the proposal since May 2020 to express their level of concern over the development.
At the meeting, Scott and other community members expressed the challenges they’ve faced with having their voices heard and say they feel they’re not being taken seriously by Langford city council and the developers.
Matthew Baldwin, Langford’s director of planning says the city does, in fact, listen to residents’ issues. Baldwin says after over an hour of discussing the proposed project, the amendment to only allow for two six-storey towers came as a result of listening to concerns.
Under pressure, Langford moves to recorded meetings
Community members have also called for City of Langford meetings to be audio recorded and the record made available, the Times Colonist reports. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City of Langford meetings are currently held on the Zoom platform, and residents can listen in by phone. Although Zoom allows for recording, recorded versions of meetings prior to Jan. 18 are not on the City of Langford website. Letters in the agenda package show that residents have requested that city meetings be recorded and made available.
The city has responded to those calls for transparency. Staff recorded audio from the Jan. 18 council meeting and posted it to the city’s website. That meeting did not include discussion of the 647 Goldstream Ave. development proposal.
Langford city council will proceed with the rezoning application’s first reading in February, and a public hearing on the proposal will likely follow.