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Uplands estate's subdivision application could be a first for the tony Oak Bay neighbourhood as housing pressures mount

An aerial view of 3275 Upper Terrace, depicting the approximate property line (in blue) of the 1.15-acre parcel, and a potential new lot line of a subdivided parcel (in orange), not to-scale. If approved, the subdivision could be the first successful land carve-out in Uplands' modern history, and perhaps ever. The applicant has proposed turning the lots into four units of housing.  Citified.ca/Google

Uplands estate's subdivision application could be a first for the tony Oak Bay neighbourhood as housing pressures mount
Mike Kozakowski, Citified.ca
There’s a first time for everything.
 
Thanks to new Provincial regulations and changing attitudes towards infill housing even in Victoria's most established traditional neighbourhoods, one Uplands home could turn into several.
 
 
Bruce Courtnall, brother to ex-NHL players Geoff and Russ Courtnall, could have a power play opportunity to secure a historic subdivision of a 1.15-acre residential property the former financial advisor and present-day realtor owns at 3275 Upper Terrace in Oak Bay, which stretches through to Midland Road.
 
An application by Courtnall and Novus Properties has gone before the District of Oak Bay seeking a rezoning in order to divide the Upper Terrace lot – a flat parcel with a home dating to the 1950s fronting Upper Terrace – and amend the Official Community Plan to permit an increase in density, something the area’s OCP has historically frowned upon.
 
The applicant’s plan envisions a new single-family-house on a subdivided lot with a secondary suite, along Midland Road. The existing home on Upper Terrace, according to the applicant, would be upgraded, and a secondary rental suite added. This would equal four units of housing on land where presently one unit is situated.
 
Planning staff did note, however, that new Provincial rules known as Bill 44 or as the Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing program (SSMUH), will allow an applicant to pursue development of up to four residential units where single-family-zoning exists. The density post-subdivision, theoretically, and on a similarly sized lot, could create two strata-titled duplex residences, or four strata-titled single-family homes, and all within the new redevelopment framework.
 
The total unit count could therefore total six homes on such a lot, two within a modernized and upgraded existing home with a rental suite, and four additional new units in a split-out parcel. Going even further, a full redevelopment scenario replacing an existing house could yield eight new homes across two properties once subdivided under the spirit of SSMUH.
 
The latter, of course, would only apply if an applicant sought to maximize available density. As per the application for 3275 Upper Terrace, only two units of housing are planned in a new home, and a secondary suite added to an existing home.
 
Subdivisions in the Uplands are so rare that no modern records of a successful application exist, according to planning staff. It is conceivable, that should the applicant be successful in securing a subdivision of 3275 Upper Terrace, other homeowners along the block and in the neighbourhood, particularly those with expansive properties of an acre or more, may be motivated to follow suit.
 
Such a turn of events would be a welcome change on Oak Bay’s housing front, in light of housing pressures faced in the Capital Region, and the Province’s expectation that Oak Bay deliver nearly 600 units of new housing by the end of the decade. 
 
The District is also moving towards significant infrastructure upgrades that will put high cost pressures on residents, costs that would be dampened by additional housing density helping pay for the work.
 
 
Uplands, it should be noted, is a National Historic Site. While the designation carries prominence, it is not restrictive as other designations may be, and is considered “honorific,” with an OCP that intends to protect its “park-like setting,” as expressed in planning documents. Uplands was designed by landscape architect John Olmstead of Olmstead Brothers, a firm that is most notable for designs of US parks, post-secondary campuses and legislative precincts.
 
Subdividing larger Uplands parcels will not create a unique change insofar as the make-up and aesthetic of Uplands is concerned, as most lots are of the Courtnall subdivision application's size, or even smaller, than what is proposed for 3275 Upper Terrace.
 
Oak Bay’s new housing journey has been tumultuous for decades, with a low degree of housing starts across the municipality, and headline-making rejections, the most infamous of which saw a 15-unit condominium proposal turned down by elected officials in the spring of 2022 despite its location in between two larger multi-unit buildings. Oak Bay council, following pressure from the Province, would eventually overturn the rejection and greenlight the project as housing quotas loomed.
 
Since the introduction of housing quotas, Oak Bay has made efforts to pursue a more robust housing delivery strategy, a move that for the first time ever, could see large Uplands estates carved out into smaller lots, and perhaps, even into small-scale multi-unit housing projects. C
 
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