AFTER one stalled effort and numerous public hearings, a large development in the Seylynn neighbourhood may be one week from final approval following a District of North Vancouver council meeting Dec. 3.
If approved, the 5.7-acre site on the east side of Mountain Highway and the north side of Fern Street would be home to five buildings including three highrises. The development would also include approximately 1,000 square metres of commercial space and 938 parking stalls.
The original design called for towers of 24, 28, and 32 storeys, but height proved a contentious issue as Coun. Lisa Muri requested heights be capped at
"I'm wanting to tweak this application slightly in order to (lower) a tower," Muri said.
But not everyone agreed. Coun. Alan Nixon argued the difference of four storeys on a towering structure is generally indiscernible.
"I would suggest that from a visual standpoint, the addition of 40 feet or
45 feet to a building is not really going to be understood or appreciated by the public," he said.
Both Nixon and Mayor Richard Walton expressed concerns that imposing a ceiling on the development could damage the project's financial viability.
"We always need to consider and appreciate the fact that developers do need to make a profit," Nixon said.
"It's not just a matter of re-stacking the blocks, it has a significant financial impact," Walton agreed.
But while the difference may be negligible when compared to other highrises, the addition or subtraction of four storeys is substantial on the human scale, according to Muri.
"It is still a very large building, and we have an entire street to go," she said.
An amendment calling for a height limit of 28 storeys, or 87 metres, passed 4-3, with Walton, Nixon, and Coun. Robin Hicks opposed.
District staff suggested the total density of the development would likely be retained if the high-rises are redesigned with a bulkier base.
The development includes 790 residential units, 70 of which would be affordable apartments. The affordable units are expected to cost approximately $1,950 per month for a three-bedroom apartment or $1,130 monthly for a one-bedroom.
"There are arguments that $1,200 or $1,900 are not necessarily in the realm of affordability," allowed Nixon, who said the quality of the buildings and the housing opportunities they provided for prospective district residents make the development worthwhile.
"Affordability is in the eye of the beholder," Muri said.
Bringing in lower-cost housing is needed to rejuvenate the district, where the average age has been increasing by an average of six months each year, according to Walton.
By attracting young parents, Walton said the development would also ensure Lynnmour elementary keeps its doors open.
"To me, density is like taxation: I accept the least amount possible," said Coun. Mike Little, explaining that the aversion to dense developments needs to be balanced with broader community needs. The district has ruled out money-making ventures like allowing casinos to operate or selling mountainside land, while also acquiescing to public demand for low taxes, Little said.
"One of the few options we have left to us is height," he said. Council is set to deliberate on the revised development Dec. 10, and could adopt the redevelopment plan as early as Dec. 12.
The project also includes a four-lane extension to Keith Road across the north side of the property to connect with the Fern Street interchange as well as the narrowing of Fern Street. The Keith Road extension would have to be completed before any units could be sold in the building on the southeast corner of the site. Construction on the road would likely begin in 2015, according to David Stuart, the district's chief administrative officer.
Council approved a high-density project for the site in 2009, but personal issues sidelined the developer and the land was sold to Sey-lynn North Shore Properties in 2011.