LYNN Valley residents crammed District of North Vancouver council chamber to overflowing Monday night to voice their opposition to highrises and density in Lynn Valley town centre.
Council voted to begin a consultation period with the community about the future of Lynn Valley Town Centre, which is one of four spots in the districts earmarked for concentrated growth over the next 20 years.
Development would be intended to attract young adults with affordable housing including townhouses as well as mid-rise and highrise apartments.
The consultation phase coincides with two highrise applications for the area. Both applications are in the preliminary stage.
Draft plans of the development include a shopping district and a park, as well as an emphasis on pedestrian paths, but new residents may have a long walk to get to work according to Lynn Valley resident Hazen Colbert.
"Where will the residents of Lynn Valley be locally employed in good quality jobs such that they can walk to work?" he asked.
Colbert supported the notion of Lynn Valley serving as an economic hub, but suggested the current plan would not create high-paying jobs in the district.
"Economic growth requires: one, commercial land use; two, educational facilities and, three,: innovation," Colbert said. "The implementation plan shows little to none of these."
Traffic, strain on the infrastructure and a dislocation of the area's village atmosphere with "vertical monstrosities" were among the most pressing issues for the meeting's 200 attendees.
Other residents expressed alarm at the priorities of developers. "They do not worry about hospitals that are over-crowded and under-funded," said Alex Schwarz, who questioned the market for condominiums "slightly larger than prison cells."
The contrast of the potential development with the bucolic single-family neighbourhood also rankled resident Connie Fay.
"This new design looks likes the Olympic Village stuck in Lynn Valley," she said.
Lisa Niven, a resident of Arbourlynn Drive, dubbed her street "Mountain Highway 2."
"I literally have to time getting out of my driveway," she said, discussing the plethora of traffic and dearth of transit on her block.
"I got a rancher so I can die in it," she said. "I do not intend to leave Lynn Valley." A longtime resident, Niven voiced her displeasure at the changing face of the neighbourhood, which has a population slightly greater than 30,000.
"Are we now going to be urban?" she asked. "I want to live in the suburbs."
According to Coun. Robin Hicks, the character of the neighbourhood has already changed. "We're not a suburb anymore, we're part of a major city metropolis," he said.
Dramatically escalating housing prices will be the result of stalling on development, according to Hicks.
While Hicks said change is inevitable, Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn assured the crowd no plans were certain. "It is not a done deal. It will only come from intensive consultation with the community."
Failure to work together to provide housing for young people will have drastic consequences, according to MacKay-Dunn.
"This community will quite frankly die on the vine," he said. Despite being warned against outbursts on two occasions by Mayor Richard Walton, many Lynn Valley residents applauded Coun. Lisa Muri's call to slow the pace of development.
"We talk about a 20-year plan but it seems in a lot of areas, everything is happening in like six months, and it's freaking a lot of people out and I'm one of them," she said.
There is no urgent need to erect highrises that would compromise the village atmosphere of the neighbourhood, according to Muri. "I respectfully disagree with people who say that if we don't do this, no young people will move here; business will cease to exist; ultimately we'll implode," she said.
"Affordability is different for everybody." Residents who would like to keep cranes out of their neighbourhood may face difficult funding decisions in the future, according to Coun. Alan Nixon. "If we don't engage in some change and some densification, we're not going to have the money to be able to provide some of those community amenities," he said.
"What Lynn Valley wants, I'll support," agreed Coun. Mike Little. However, Little added, there are consequences to rejecting development, such as shuttered elementary schools.
"What I would like to see is sensitive development in our town centre," Little said.
"The easiest thing in the world for a politician . . . is to vote for no change," said Walton. "It's very easy for me to say I'm never going to consider any other form of housing here, but I don't think I'd be doing you a favour."
Walton discussed what he called a "demographic exodus" among residents between the ages of 20 and 40. The mayor called on residents to discuss the issue with their children and young people who were not represented in council chambers on Monday.
Discussions over the next few months should help define one of the topics that is somewhat vague in the official community plan, according to Coun. Roger Bassam.
"For me, one of the issues that is not well-defined in there is form and character, and I think that is the crux of the conversation that we need to have," he said.
The consultation phase is tentatively scheduled to wrap up in March, preceding an implementation plan that would be submitted to council this spring.