CITY of North Vancouver council is "hitting the pause button" on redevelopment of the Harry Jerome Recreation Centre.
Council voted Monday night to postpone discussions and a vote on the basic layout of the lands, recreation facilities and residential buildings on the site until January 2014. The city needs to do more outreach and planning before committing to a design and funding strategy, council agreed.
The design that council deferred acting on was the one most preferred by surveyed members of the public last fall, but it was simply "not good enough" as-is for council members.
"This is a huge project and I'm prepared to work hard enough to get it right. I think it needs more public process," said Coun. Guy Heywood.
Council and staff used community input to help narrow down potential designs from five to three, but in doing so created an "unhappy compromise" meant to "offend the fewest sacred cows around the precinct."
"And I'm not sure that's a good way to do the long-term planning of the city," Heywood added.
Council members also had stark reservations about including 350,000 square feet of residential development in a series of towers and low-rises between 21st Street and Highway 1. Previously, council had directed staff to include that much condo space in the design, to help offset about half of the $70 million the rebuild is expected to cost.
Coun. Pam Bookham took the opportunity to call for building up the city's community amenity fund by forcing developers to put up cash in exchange for extra density, instead of swapping it for community amenities as they do now.
"The only other alternative is raising taxes, borrowing money and this kind of development on the so-called residual lands. If you want green space here, if you want lower development, you have to be prepared to consider those other alternatives," she
Unlike high density projects around 13th and Lonsdale, the neighbourhood around Harry Jerome never had any urban planning or official community plan designation for highrises, Coun. Craig Keating added.
"I think much more process is needed and I'm not in favour of going ahead and simply jamming as much density as we can to get the biggest economic bang for the buck. I think we need to work differently," he said.
While every member of council expressed a desire to see Harry Jerome rebuilt to a standard that would satisfy today's users as well as the next generation's, there is no reason to rush a decision, Mayor Darrell Mussatto said.
"The good news is the facility is not in need of imminent closure. It can still function. It may not function as best as everyone wants it to, but it does function," he said.
The long delay gives pool users, who have been lobbying hard for the new Harry Jerome to include a 50-metre pool instead of the proposed 25-metre one, time to persuade council.
"I'm not opposed to a 50-metre pool but I have to be very clear about it: that we cannot, as a city, carry that burden alone. It's too expensive for our municipality to do that," he said.
Mussatto challenged the pool users to continue seeking grants, and fundraising, and return to lobbying the District of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver, both of which have residents who use the Harry Jerome pool.