THE Low Level Road project hit a speedbump Monday night when City of North Vancouver council deferred their vote on the controversial project until June 18.
Several councillors called for more time to review details regarding the $100-million plan to raise the Low Level Road while moving it farther north from the port to generate space for additional rail lines.
The city would contribute 2.39 hectares of land located underneath the Low Level Road for the project, as well as $800,000.
If the project is approved, Port Metro Vancouver is slated to contribute approximately one acre of land between St. George's Avenue and St. Andrew's Avenue to allow Esplanade Avenue to be widened. Port Metro Vancouver's land contribution would also allow for a new Spirit Trail between St. Georges and Kennard Avenue.
"I'm not prepared to support this motion tonight and I may not support it at all. Quite frankly, I think we're being railroaded," said Coun. Pam Bookham.
"I do not see slope stability as a great benefit to the community," Bookham said. "We've been led to believe that the only way to achieve slope stability is to grab this money."
Without the benefit of federal and provincial funding for the project, the city will be forced to pay $10 million to provide slope stability, according to city engineer Douglas Pope.
Noting the outstanding issues related to the project, Bookham elected to vote for a deferral.
Bookham also questioned the recent swell of council support for the project.
"I don't know what has happened to make Coun. Keating change his tune," Bookham said.
"I have changed my views about what the economic impact of this development will be," Coun. Craig Keating responded. "The proposal here is about the economic opportunity the city faces."
Keating complimented Port Metro Vancouver for addressing the city's noise and environmental concerns.
Keating, along with Mayor Darrell Mussatto and Coun. Linda Buchanan, voted against the deferral motion. They were defeated 4-3.
"Clearly, I believe the benefits outweigh the negatives," Mussatto said, discussing the road closures caused by loose soil on the slope that could be adverted with the project.
The mayor encouraged council to take advantage of federal and provincial money and approve the project.
A delay could be detrimental for the project, according to city manager Ken Tollstam, who said having council approval by June 11 was important to the project's timeline. "I think the council should make up their mind now," he said.
"I think we are tonight at a point we should've been at a year ago," said Coun. Rod Clark, who likened the strict timeline facing the city to being held at gunpoint.
"The noise study was only released a week ago Friday, and it is fundamentally flawed," Clark said. "Those trains will be heard six or eight blocks up the hill."
Council has had insufficient time to review all documents on the matter, according to Clark, who discussed a report on slope stability he said council received at 3 p.m. on the afternoon before the meeting.
The late report was inconsequential because it contained no new information, according to city engineer Pope. "I didn't think council really needed to see it," Pope said.
Coun. Linda Buchanan agreed. "I didn't feel I needed that information to get where I am now," she said.
While she acknowledged flaws in the project, Buchanan said the project would allow workers to be safer and enhance the Spirit Trail.
The project has been assailed by cycling advocacy group HUB.
"This project takes road design back to the 1950s when the only form of transportation considered was vehicles," stated North Shore committee chairman Jay MacDonald.
MacDonald called for a larger, separated bike lane.
"North side cyclists will move from east to west unprotected from high speed traffic by anything but a painted line," MacDonald stated in a release.
The Spirit Trail is a good recreational route but not a good travel path, according to MacDonald.
"I think this is a good project. I want to support it, but the devil's in the details," said Coun. Don Bell. "I will support deferral for one week."
Council's interests will continue to be represented during work with Port Metro Vancouver, according to Pope.
"City engineers will have authority to approve the final design," he said.
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