View of the site of a proposed five-storey apartment building on South Island Highway in Campbell River. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

View of the site of a proposed five-storey apartment building on South Island Highway in Campbell River. Photo by Sean Feagan / Campbell River Mirror.

City council denies variance for Island Highway apartment building height

Bylaw requires building heights not exceed three metres below ridgetop to conserve viewscapes

The developer of a proposed 42-unit apartment building on South Island Highway may be headed back to the drawing board, after a decision by Campbell River city council to postpone decision on its application because of its height as designed.

The variance request was included in the development permit application for the five-storey building, located at 1470 South Island Highway, because as designed, it exceeds the maximum height allowed under a city bylaw. That rule, intended to maintain the viewscapes from overlooking residences, requires building heights not to exceed three metres from below the top of the adjacent ridge.

The applicant, Xeniya Vins of WA Architects Ltd., requested the variance for a 0.71 metre height increase, meaning the top of the structure would sit 2.29 metres below the ridge top.

But on Nov. 1, city council passed a motion to postpone the consideration of the development permit, to allow the development to reduce the building’s height to adhere to the restriction — rather than approve the application.

It took work to get the community, council and city staff to develop the restriction and get everyone on the same page with regards to viewscapes from the ridge — so the policy should be adhered to, said Coun. Claire Moglove, who proposed the motion.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he was concerned that, unlike what was done for other developments in the area, no visual assessment was included in the report.

“There was an assessment, (with) pictures from the balconies or from the decks of the people that lived up above, so you could see what was being proposed, what was there before, and you could tell what the impact was — and we still don’t have that in this.”

This is notable because the varying height of the ridge and position of the houses situated there will determine whether the proposed building will affect views, he said. To help understand this, Cornfield requested photos of the impacts to the viewscape be added to the report, which was added to the motion.

The city is also reviewing a steep slope and bald eagle nest minor development permits for the application.

Mayor Andy Adams said granting the variance could open the doors to similar requests by other developers.

“I don’t want to be back here at the table with the next application because we’ve approved a variance, and somebody else comes along and wants another variance or stretches it from two feet to two and three quarters feet, and we’ve haven’t a leg to stand on,” he said.

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