The March 13 letter from Gail Cotter that questions the stewardship of myself and District of West Vancouver council in regard to the proposed redevelopment of the 1300-block of Marine Drive requires a response.
Ms. Cotter's belief that council meetings are an opportunity for us to listen to the community is correct, and that's what we do. In the case of Grosvenor and the 1300-block, we have listened in a series of public meetings, via hundreds of surveys, by reading emails and letters, and through hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations between myself, other members of council and the public.
Ambleside, and how to connect it to the waterfront lands that the community has paid millions to acquire, has been studied by councils for 40 years. There have been dozens of staff reports, consultant studies and citizen groups' recommendations. The plain fact is that many businesses in the area are struggling and many buildings are worn out. Our police building is one of them. It is not worth investing any more resources into it and it is inadequate for its current use. It makes sense to build a new facility on our existing municipal hall site and incorporate a new fire hall as the Ambleside hall is 50 years old and does not meet post-disaster standards.
The public safety building has never been the only issue with the sale of district lands to Grosvenor. The district has many financial obligations to meet in the next few years. The substantial funds received from the sale of the 1300-block would go into our endowment fund and be used to pay for future capital projects in the community. West Vancouver is facing paying our share, together with the City and District of North Vancouver, of a new $400-million sewage treatment plant for the North Shore that needs to be built prior to 2020 to meet federal regulations. We also need to recognize that much of our infrastructure (roads, water and sewer lines, etc.) is aging and needs replacement. Prudent planning for this needs to happen.
Ms. Cotter's comment that the Grosvenor plan is solely about profiteering is unfortunate. They are a quality developer and have taken a great deal of time in meeting with our citizens to create a project that will be an asset for our community. They know that our council will not accept a proposal from them that doesn't meet the substantial needs of the district in general and Ambleside in particular. Through their ideas fairs and other public forums, they are reaching out to our citizens for their input. Council had earlier identified the 1300-block as eligible for increased height and density if a superior design could be achieved, and Grosvenor is responding to this decision.
To suggest that our chamber of commerce represents only business owners waiting to profit from the rezoning of their properties is just inaccurate. The vast majority of chamber members are small businesses. They are trying to grow their own businesses while working with the district and contributing to making our business areas in Ambleside, Dundarave, Caulfeild, Horseshoe Bay and Park Royal more healthy, vibrant and fun places to be.
Ms. Cotter says Grosvenor's 1300-block plan adds nothing to the community, but that statement completely ignores a number of features of the proposed building: the artfully designed public spaces, the hub for festival and events, street-level storefronts, green roofs and gardens, millions in cash contribution to our community amenities fund, and many other features that Ambleside sorely needs to bring life to the area. In addition, the increased housing options the proposed development would provide are necessary. Many of our residents desire housing that is located in Ambleside near services and transit.
Ms. Cotter seems to take offence with the fact that I view the district as a corporation. It is. We are a $115million business, and I take very seriously the fact that we are dealing with public money and assets.
Council has voted to accept the recommendation of our staff that they work with Grosvenor to revise the original plan presented, lower the height of the proposed building and make other changes to the project. It will then come back for public review and a council decision.
Nothing has yet been decided. Council continues to encourage input from our citizens prior to any decisions being made on this development or on any other issue.
Mayor Michael Smith West Vancouver