I am opposed to the mega development proposal for the 1300block Marine Drive in West Van, and I want to share some economic principles about money and property values to explain why.
The value of a property is not just the bricks and mortar. There is also an intrinsic value which is influenced by the surroundings: if it is beside a garbage dump or a park, if there is a freeway outside the front door, if it is on a quiet street, if a view, or if the Great Wall of West Vancouver is blocking that view - and light and ocean breeze. In their wisdom, previous governments have created zoning bylaws and OCPs to protect property owners and these intrinsic values from such things as a garbage dump appearing next door, or a mammoth structure blocking our visual access to the sea.
I am tired of having West Vancouver council on the one hand espousing the importance of the quality of life in West Van and bragging about how taxes have been held in check, and on the other hand being blinded by the glow of a $37-million cheque. Owners in Ambleside are paying dearly for that tax freeze in the loss of our property values. Let me explain:
It appears that similar or identical properties sell for 20-50 thousand dollars more if there is a view - part of that intrinsic value. This is not rocket science - just check real estate listings and sales data. Talk to one of our many independent local Realtors. Now in the 1200-to 1400-blocks of Lower Ambleside, there are easily at least 1,000 properties that will lose their view to this proposed development. Again, not rocket science, just walk around the neighbourhood and count. Simple multiplication will tell you that is an aggregate loss of 20-50 million dollars - the proposed sale price of the 1300-block Marine Drive and then some. The people of Ambleside will pay for that new police station in reduced property values. To expect that is outrageous.
The new taxes expected from those 88 proposed condos, lavish as they might be - the net increase in density - amounts to perhaps $300,000 in additional property taxes based on the current mill rate. That would be the salaries and benefits of maybe two city managers. Not a princely sum. However, the loss of taxes on the 20-50 million dollar loss in property values farther up the hill will really leave the net revenue gain insignificant. We can even keep the minions, but perhaps hold them to a wage freeze.
Now, let's have a closer look at our tax notice. Despite what the anonymous author of the flyers that have come around during the last 20+ election years says, our municipal taxes are the lowest in Metro Vancouver. Our mill rate is 1.81. Compare that with the District of North Vancouver of 2.25, City of North Vancouver of 2.36, Coquitlam - lots of million dollar houses there - of 2.94.
I know tax increases in this economy are not popular, however the property owners of Ambleside should not have to foot what amounts to the full cost of the new police station in reduced property values. That is simply not fair. The district website says there are 16,340 households in West Vancouver. A modest tax increase - say $200 per household - would garner us approximately 3.2 million dollars a year. In 10 years we would all have paid for that new police station, not just the people in Ambleside. And we would not have to sell the 1300-block to do it. On the other hand, we could limit that development to three storeys; it would fit in the neighbourhood, we would have to reduce our selling price, but we would have that new police station paid for in five years. For argument's sake, if every household's taxes increased by a whopping $900, which is only the tax differential between a million dollar house in West Van and the District of North Vancouver, we would pay for that police station in 2.5 years, not have to sell the 1300-block, not have to hide behind an eight-storey monstrosity and move on.
If we can afford blue lights at the foot of 14th Street, want a state of the art police station to match our state of the art community centre and apparently shape an image of West Vancouver that some want, then everyone should have to dig a little deeper. Council should not be swayed by developers preying on our greed and, if the North Shore News is to be believed, loading our council meetings.
West Vancouver council needs to rethink the current proposal and be fair to the people of Ambleside. Maintain our quality of life. Don't agree to build the Great Wall of West Vancouver, take our view and make us pay for it.
Sandra Leidl West Vancouver