Community News

Engaging the Community Early, and Often

May 03, 2015 Editor

Developer of former Trio site says they are looking for input

by Roger Stonebanks, citizen journalist

The owner of one of the last significant developable properties within the Urban Containment Boundary in Saanich, the 26-acre former Trio site in Cordova Bay, is asking the community first – what do you want? – before coming up with and presenting a plan.

 It is becoming less so (but it still happens) that property developers come up with plans first and then go to the community to present them. This procedure puts the community in the position of having to be reactive rather than being able to be pro-active – expressing their views before the plan is developed.

 “We prefer to engage the community we work in early and often,” David Roppel, Director of Planning and Development for Aragon Properties of Vancouver, told Saanich Voice Online.

“We are interested in what the community’s needs and expectations are. We don’t find the present-and-defend approach successful. We prefer to get community input early and have it inform and support the planning process.”

Aragon Properties held its first community workshop in Cordova Bay on Feb. 21 and more than 100 people attended. A second community input meeting is expected in May.

 “We learned the community has a desire for affordable housing in the neighbourhood so adult children of current residents can afford to live here,” said Roppel of the first workshop

“We also learned the neighbours expect a well-considered approach to inter-connected open space. Community members thought it important that the new community fit well with the existing community and build on, not draw away from, Mattick’s Farm.”

Anthony Minniti, president of the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs, told SVO that “many more developers are approaching projects” the way Aragon is. His executive has not discussed Aragon’s process in particular but speaking personally, “I applaud the developer for the community consultation process.”

 The CBA has had an introductory meeting with Aragon Properties.

John Schmuck, chair of the Saanich Community Association Network, said his association, Quadra-Cedar Hill, likes proponents “to come to us for discussion before they develop their hard plans. This allows us to provide input and get some of our ideas into the original plans. We generally meet with them at the beginning of the process.”

Schmuck said Quadra-Cedar Hill helps proponents hold a meeting with neighbours and other interested persons “who want to have a say in the project. After that is complete we then write our letter to Saanich Planning stating our position on the project before the planners write their report to council.”

 Other community associations in Saanich follow a similar procedure. It is Saanich policy to encourage developers to meet and work with community associations.

The former Trio site is at the corner of Cordova Bay Road and Fowler Road and below Alderley Road. For many years it was a gravel quarry and, along with rock crushing, it also had a concrete-making facility. More recently, after those uses ceased, Trio Gravel Mart sold soil mix and mulch and concrete products. The property was sold by the McLaren family to Aragon Properties for $6.1 million last year.

The property, which is within the Sewer Service Area, is being called Triangle Hill by Aragon Properties. It is across Cordova Bay Road from the 37-acre Sayward Hill condos, townhouses and nine-hole golf course that were developed by the Jawl family of Cordova Bay, owner of Mattick’s Farm and the 18-hole Cordova Bay Golf Course. The Triangle Hill architect is Franc D’Ambrosio. With his former partnership, deHoog D’Ambrosio, he was master planner for Mattick’s Farm and Sayward Hill. That firm was architect for Mattick’s Farm, Mattick’s Green and Mattick’s Wood and Phase One of Sayward Hill (the masterplan, rezoning and design guidelines, a six-storey condo and five townhouses). DeHoog proceeded with remaining phases of Sayward Hill after D’Ambrosio formed his own company, D’Ambrosio Architecture and Urbanism in 2003.

 While the site was rezoned in 1999 into three areas in anticipation of development, it did not happen. The southeast corner, for example, is zoned for townhouses and condos with a six-storey height limit and a maximum 110 dwelling units. But Roppel says Aragon is restarting the planning process. He said it is too early to determine uses and densities but he appeared to drop one hint when asked about the 9.7-acre mini-storage zone for recreational vehicles in the north part of the property – “Aragon has not built mini-storage in the past.”

Roppel said he welcomes public input and he can be reached at