IT appears developer Onni Group is giving up on its proposal to build condos, offices and retail space at the Safeway site on Lonsdale at 13th.
In a Dec. 3 letter to City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto and copied to the rest of council, Onni's president states that the company will be withdrawing its application because of comments made throughout the public process by Couns. Pam Bookham and Rod Clark.
"We intend to announce publicly within the next 48-72 hours that we are withdrawing our application. . . ," Rossano De Cotiis stated.
"Unfortunately, we are no longer able to tolerate public abuse from these colleagues of yours and are unwilling to continue to go to endless rounds of public hearings until Councillors Bookham and Clark get their way."
Specifically, it was the accusations that Onni had manipulated the town hall meeting and public hearing and otherwise manufactured public support for the project.
"The outrageous public comments made by Councillor Clark and Councillor Bookham over the past number of months are not only unprofessional and undemocratic but, in our view, possibly defamatory," De Cotiis states.
An Onni employee signed up a host of supporters to the Nov. 19 public hearing speakers list, though council has noted that is not a violation of any rules. However, council voted 4-3 on Nov. 26 to hold a second public hearing in January. Subsequent to that meeting, the issue was place on Monday night's agenda after Coun. Don Bell announced he would reconsider his vote for a second hearing.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Rod Clark defended his previous statements, saying he didn't feel they were defamatory.
"I made my comments based on the facts as I see them," he said. "The process is what concerns me the most, and the process has been hijacked, as I indicated."
"I think the community is going to be well served going back to the drawing board."
Also speaking to the North Shore News Tuesday, Mussatto maintained the public hearing had been held in a fair and open way. He expressed disappointment at the apparent loss of the project, saying the affordable housing, office space and daycare that had been included in the proposal would be tough to replace.
"Between 13th Street and 17th Street is the city centre," he said. "If you can't put density there, it's going to be very difficult to put it anywhere else. . . . I've been pretty depressed about it."
If Onni follows through on its statement, it will kill a controversial project that would have seen 344 condo units in two towers measuring 180 and 240 feet in height, atop a commercial podium including a new grocery store, as well as 40,000 square feet of office space.
Asked if it was unusual for a developer to scrap a project on this scale, ostensibly in response to comments by councillors, Mussatto said yes.
"That's the first time in my career and almost 20 years on council that I've seen a development like this happen - especially when . . . a majority of people at a public hearing were in support of it," said the mayor.
This is the second proposal Onni has put forward for the property at 1308 Lonsdale Ave. The last one, submitted in 2010, included three 18-storey towers and was rejected by council. But the most recent attempt did win support from nearby residents, De Cotiis noted in the letter.
"According to your own staff, we have exceeded expectations in terms of public outreach and consultation and have significantly changed the project based on feedback from residents," he said.
"Neighbours who were initially opposed to the project have become public and vocal supporters based on our commitment to amending our proposal to address and incorporate their concerns."
De Cotiis also reminded council of the amenities the city will be forfeiting with loss of the application.
"This is not a decision we made lightly and deeply regret the loss of much needed commercial space, childcare and other amenities negotiated in good faith," he said.
The developer had offered to include 5,000 square feet of childcare space, 10,000 square feet of non-profit affordable housing, heightened environmental building standards, a connection to the Lonsdale Energy Corporation and a $1-milion contribution to the city's amenity fund.
The increased height and density above what is allowed in the official community plan, as well as the traffic flow around the massive development were huge points of contention for critics of the proposal throughout the process.
De Cotiis goes on in the letter to lecture Bookham about comments she made about Onni's supporters, most of whom described themselves as young professionals at the public hearing.
"Further, it is not surprising that we see diminishing voter turnouts and growing apathy among young people towards our democratic processes given some of the disturbing comments made by Councillor Bookham," he wrote. "Discriminatory attacks based on age have no place in any public hearing by anyone, let alone by an elected official who is supposed to represent their interests."
"I see it as the response of a frustrated applicant who up until recently probably thought this was going to be approved," said Bookham in an interview. "I think it gives us a clear slate. We - the community, council, the developer - need time to step back. I hope they will consider coming back with a significantly different proposal."
Beau Jarvis, Onni's vice-president of development, declined to comment ahead of a statement slated for release at the end of the day. "I wish I could trust you guys more in reporting in an unbiased manner," he said.