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Council freezes development in the commercial core

Crystal Lodge renovations will go ahead Council has approved major renovations to the Crystal Lodge despite putting a temporary freeze on development in the commercial core zone.

Crystal Lodge renovations will go ahead

Council has approved major renovations to the Crystal Lodge despite putting a temporary freeze on development in the commercial core zone.

The freeze in the CC1 zone, which encompasses most of the original village south of Village Gate Boulevard, is designed to allow the municipality to develop new policy to control development in the village.

"(We’re) not looking to freeze the village in place, merely to collect our wits," reassured Councillor Gordon McKeever.

Each building in the CC1, with some special exemptions for projects currently underway, like the Crystal Lodge, will now remain at their current floor area until a new policy is developed. Before Monday’s meeting each building had the potential to expand its gross floor area (GFA) to 3.5 square metres per square metre of the property parcel area. Currently most buildings in the CC1 zone are not at their maximum permitted gross floor area.

Reexamining the CC1 is a task that has been long awaited by some councillors.

"We can see the potential impacts of not taking any direction in this area," said Councillor Ken Melamed who was one of the first councillors to raise the issue in 1997. At that time council was not prepared to review the CC1 zone.

"If we do nothing about the CC1 there is the potential to add a significant number of bed units in the commercial core," he said.

Councillor Caroline Lamont said developing new CC1 policy was not so much about capping bed units, rather it was a way to figure out a growth management strategy for the commercial core.

She added that one broad policy would level the playing field for everyone in the commercial core, rather than allowing projects to be approved on a case by case basis.

"The one thing the policy does is provide certainty for both sides of the table," she said.

Councillor Kristi Wells however was not convinced that freezing development in the CC1 would be fair, especially for property owners who have been in the commercial core for a long time, banking on their ability to develop further.

Putting herself in the position of a longtime property owner in the CC1 Wells said they had development rights that were established with the original CC1 zoning.

"People make long range plans... all based on this existing (zoning)," she said.

"To freeze the densities I find very challenging."

Wells added that council is asking landowners to reinvest in their property with the Village Enhancement Strategy but at the same time council is taking away the tools to help with that investment. She said increasing density is an incentive for reinvestment.

Wells asked if council could go about developing new policy without freezing the current density.

But Melamed said without this freeze there would be nothing to stop every landowner in the CC1 from submitting a development permit with the municipality to maximize their GFA before new policy is adopted by council.

Bob MacPherson, general manager of planning and development at the municipality, said staff are trying to get an accurate picture of the built floor areas in the CC1 zone, which will involve scanning and scaling strata plans for every parcel in the zone.

A draft bylaw should be ready for council’s consideration in the first quarter of 2004. He cautioned that it might take the majority of next year to complete the full review and develop new policy.

Council approved the direction to freeze CC1 density at its current size during the review process but they will consider some exemptions.

The Crystal Lodge was considered as an exemption at Monday’s meeting.

Developers are planning to expand the GFA of the Crystal Lodge in the area stretching from Sportstop to Forks. They plan to add roughly 20 new units and more than 1,000 square metres of additional GFA. This expansion would still keep them under the 3.5 square metre ratio to which they are entitled under the CC1 zoning.

The developers have been working on these development plans for more than a year.

The plans were first presented to council more than two weeks ago, at the Dec. 1 council meeting. It was defeated at that time over concerns about the height and massing of the building as well as the shadow and view impacts.

Several design modifications to the development swayed council’s decision at Monday’s meeting.

A fifth floor penthouse was removed from the plans, as was a small tower which would have been placed above Citta’s bistro.

Only two councillors remained unconvinced that the proposed renovations to the building would be a good idea.

"I’ve agonized over this proposal like I’ve agonized over no other proposal," said Councillor Nick Davies, who spent hours examining the building, reviewing the shadow analysis and view impact studies and imagining what it would look like with more gross floor area.

"The difficulty I have is that this square and that stroll are very, very important to us."

Davies still had concerns about the roof protruding a little further onto Village Stroll, among other things.

Likewise Lamont was also not convinced enough to support the new design.

"I think you’re really close but I don’t think you’re there," she said.

The rest of council voted in favour of moving ahead with the renovations.