DISTRICT of West Vancouver council assessed its zoning and building policies Monday night with the goals of getting a handle on the massing of "monster houses," as well as attracting development of more diverse and relatively affordable housing options.
Among the actionable ideas on the table: allowing more infill development and coach houses, continuing to support development of seniors' and rental housing, looking to add to the district's rental housing stock, and making changes to the official community plan to allow for more innovative housing proposals.
Any changes council opts for will be built on the ones recommended by a 2008 working group.
Council members are also seeking to clarify the district's nebulous rules on what parts of a home will be counted as part of the total allowable floor area, as some basements are counted and others are not.
"Clearly there seems to be an ability to finesse or abuse the regulations to (developers') advantage in terms of creating bulk for housing," said Coun. Michael Lewis. "You play a bit with the topography of the lot and the next think you know, look, it's an apartment building"
The district also faces challenges in dealing with the market forces that drive buyers, builders and sellers to seek the highest return on investment with every property, Coun. Mary-Ann Booth noted, adding that the existing single-family zoning "incentivizes the biggest house possible."
While most of council seemed amenable to the plans for attracting a broader range of housing options including secondary suites, townhouses and pocket neighbourhoods, others remained skeptical.
Coun. Bill Soprovich warned of creating a blanket policy for the entire district that would allow secondary suites and coach houses to be built anywhere, without any thought for the consequences. He warned of West Vancouver turning into "east of Lonsdale," where it is impossible to find parking, something he attributed to the City of North Vancouver going overboard with secondary suites.
"What concerns me is where they go. When we look at this, my first reaction is, are we going to blanket this community with the ability to allow for infill housing for the entire community below the highway? I have a real reaction right away to the concerns of neighbours."
But the district has already been far too slow while allowing too much development of "monster homes" devoid of any trees, according to one resident who came to speak at the meeting.
"If you worked in business, you'd be fired," said Justin Webb, a Braeside Street resident, noting that the city had only acted on a handful of the 2008 recommendations.
Of the 25 houses built in his neighbourhood in recent years, Webb called 80 per cent of them "ugly" and said most homeowners stripped away any vegetation on the property to make room for a concrete block home.
"You're ruining our community by lack of action. You're ruining our community by not being tough and strong and setting tough guidelines to abide by," he said.
Webb's comments drew applause from the handful of attendees in the gallery but they did not go unanswered from the district.
"The rights of private property are, unfortunately, something that we deal with. No council can come in with a draconian hand and say that those rights will be swept clean and we will maintain some sort of notion, that we would all love to maintain, about character," said Brent Leigh, deputy chief administrative officer for the district.
Council is expecting a report back on a new coach house policy sometime in the summer.