THE City of North Vancouver may soon look to outside expertise to help get its density bonusing policy in order.
The process by which the city trades extra development density in exchange for community amenities has been a frequent point of contention, both in the community and at the council table, during recent years. City staff are now recommending the city hire an outside consultant to help put together a study meant to tackle a number of issues raised at a public workshop on density bonusing held in the fall.
Among the more frequent critiques at the workshop: that the process lacks transparency and creates confusion; that council goes overboard with density in order to secure community amenities like affordable housing or childcare space; and that there is no benchmark to measure the value of density bonuses, project-to-project to make sure the city is getting a "fair deal."
The study would examine what other municipalities are doing and provide a financial analysis and recommendations for changes to the policy, as well as a comprehensive list of every past density bonusing project to help inform the discussion. The study is expected to cost the city about $45,000.
Under the existing policy, council can swap extra floor space or height in a development if the proponent negotiates for perks in six categories: heritage preservation, community amenity space, commercial space, higher environmental building standards, affordable or below-market rental housing, market rental housing or adaptable designs geared towards seniors or people with disabilities. In the seemingly endless condo boom, developers tend to look for the fastest return on investment, which rarely includes any of the things council is hoping to bargain for.
Council used the policy to get the new city library and renovated municipal hall completed at no extra capital costs for taxpayers. The city is looking at a similar tactic in rebuilding Harry Jerome Recreation Centre by including about 350,000 square feet of condo space to cover about half of the project's estimated $70-million cost.
Council deferred voting on the recommendation as several councillors were absent from Monday's meeting.