Despite some longstanding frustrations about traffic in the neighbourhood and some skepticism about what qualifies as "affordable," City of North Vancouver council has given the OK for a new townhouse complex in central Lonsdale.
Council voted 6-1 Monday night in favour of the 18-unit development at 2340 to 2370 Western Ave.
The project is a slightly tweaked version of a similar development council roundly rejected in March this year, the key difference being the elimination of eight "lock off" units - self-contained bachelor apartments that are joined to the main home by a door. Parking stalls were also added.
The vote followed comments from a steady stream of supporters, only one of whom lived in the neighbourhood, who approached the microphone during the pubic hearing immediately prior to praise the 1,300-square-foot, threebedroom units for their affordability.
Neighbours who live on Western Avenue and 23rd Street now, however, urged council to quash the redevelopment on the grounds that putting the dense housing on their street would ruin the sense of neighbourhood that attracted them to live on the dead end street, that the street is already overtaxed when it comes to parking and that turning left onto 23rd Street is already a difficult and, at times, dangerous task.
But it was the issue of affordability - a highly relative term - that dominated much of the discussion. When asked by a member of the public how much the townhouses would list for, the developer estimated $600,000 to $700,000.
City council changed the official community plan for the street in 2007 to allow for the type of density the developer was seeking to build.
After noting that he was the one who moved the motion to reject the project just six months earlier, Coun. Craig Keating was the first at the council table to support the revised plan on the grounds that the developer had done more community consultation and that the proposal fit with the OCP.
But the OCP never should have allowed the density in an area already congested with traffic, Coun. Pam Bookham countered before rebuking council for its habit of pursuing affordability through dense development.
"We can keep reiterating the mantra about affordable housing and density but time and time again, we are seeing that density is not solving the affordability problem," she said.
For that, young families would be better served buying farther east in the Fraser Valley where land is cheaper, Bookham added.
But, taking into account the cost and time spent commuting for those people, the city still has a role to create more housing options, Coun. Linda Buchanan argued.
"They're choosing not to have the single-family home and they know the tradeoff, and for them spending another two to three hours with their family. .. those
are significant family values we have to look at," she said.
Affordability, by the last generation's middle class standards, is already long gone on the North Shore, Coun. Rod Clark said, before throwing his support behind the project.
"We're never going to be able to attract young families that want the kind of lifestyle they enjoyed when they were growing up," he said.
As for the traffic tie-ups that already plague the area, 18 more units of housing wouldn't make a significant difference, the majority on council agreed. To remedy that, the city has been lobbying the Ministry of Transportation to recalibrate the traffic lights on Lonsdale Avenue between 23rd Street and exits from Highway 1.
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