THE City of North Vancouver is currently revising its official community plan in a process it calls "City Shaping."
The OCP is a blueprint for the city's future and is intended to provide a degree of certainty; all bylaws and works undertaken by the city must be consistent with the plan once adopted. Our most recent version was adopted in 2002.
The city adopted the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy in 2011. The strategy assigns a one per cent per year growth rate to the city as its share of the region's growth over the coming years. The Local Government Act requires that the city's OCP be generally consistent with the regional growth strategy which projects population, dwelling units, employment and a 10-year housing demand estimate.
North Vancouver City Voices citizens group has concluded after extensive research into public hearing transcripts, council meeting minutes and committee meeting minutes that the city has far exceeded targets assigned by the regional growth strategy - and even by its own OCP.
On Nov. 6, we met with city staff members to show them our documentation. We asked them to confirm that our conclusions about growth in the city - that we are far exceeding the targets assigned - are reasonable and accurate. They indicated they would verify our numbers.
We have tried to contact them for a response over the past two days with no success and have now reluctantly come to the conclusion that the city does not want people to realize the following facts.
From the regional growth strategy:
? The 10-year housing demand estimate is for 2,400 units; ownership demand is 1,600, rental demand is 800. The 800 rental units is broken down to 600 affordable-housing units and 200 market-rental units.
? Target population for 2021 is 56,000 and for 2031 is 62,000.
? Dwelling unit target for 2021 is 25,600 and for 2031 is 28,000.
The city's current population is 51,083 according to B.C. Statistic's 2012 population estimates and the city's website puts its current dwelling units at 22,789.
However, there are 4,145 dwelling units currently approved. This means that, using the city statistics of 2.2 people per unit, an additional 9,119 people are already expected. Bottom line? The 2021 target population is surpassed by 4,202, and we are already at 97.1% of the 2031 target population.
Our figures do include the population from the Harbourside estimates although the rezoning is not yet scheduled. However, our figures do not include new duplexes, coach houses, secondary suites (23 currently listed on the development application site). Nor do our figures include the estimated 350,000 square feet of development planned for the Harry Jerome redevelopment. Conservatively this will be another 500 units at 700 square feet per unit.
In 2002, the city proposed a population cap of 55,500 by 2021. Then councillor John Braithwaite said that when the limit is reached council would know what to do next. Our mayor, then a councillor, said that he would look at sustainability and affordability. Well, the time has come to look at it - we have passed that mark.
While we have respect for the professionalism and ethics of the city planning staff, we have grown very concerned about the role city staff members have been assigned in handling development applications. Since staff is advising council, we think their primary responsibility should be as defenders of the OCP. We have been dismayed to see planning staff assigned to work with developers after we have heard from developers that city staff members have encouraged them to ask for more height on proposed buildings.
There is a public hearing on Monday for the Onni redevelopment on the Safeway site. It may interest residents of the city to know that over the past couple of years there have been 14 OCP amendments - the purpose of which has mostly been to increase density.
We believe Onni's request to ignore existing OCP guidelines will also be approved.
We are emphatically not anti-growth. However we believe the pace of development is out of control in our city. We want to continue to enjoy the things that brought us to North Vancouver - its beautiful scenery, spectacular vistas and natural splendour.
We do not want to live in the shadows of oversized condos or have our limited hours of sunlight blocked by massive towers. We want growth that respects the character and values of our neighbourhoods and growth that puts the interests of citizens first. We want growth that respects the official community plan, not growth driven by developers and speculators.
We want livable growth that includes the development of parks, recreation facilities, schools, medical facilities, transportation and traffic capacity at the same time as development occurs, not as a long-delayed afterthought, paid for through higher taxes.
The city's population growth is no longer within the stated limits. What happens when we are no longer consistent with any plan?
Toni Bolton is a 40-year city taxpayer and a founding member of North Van City Voices. Read more from the group at nvcityvoices. wordpress.com.