WEST Vancouver council unanimously agreed Tuesday to give Grosvenor development group the option to purchase the 1300block of Marine Drive if it comes up with an acceptable redevelopment plan.
Many residents voiced their concerns over the plan during two crowded council meetings Monday and Tuesday.
"I fear that this issue has the potential to divide the community," said Scenery Slater, who expressed concern about a massive development changing the face of the community.
The proposed sale gives Grosvenor a forum to submit plans for a project on the site in the next six to nine months. Council can reject the deal at any stage.
The public does not know enough about the development to make an informed decision, according to Slater. "Above all, I'd like to know what heights and density are being considered and exactly why," she said.
"Everybody's concerned about the village atmosphere," agreed Mayor Michael Smith, adding that residents did not want a clone of Yaletown or Coal Harbour. The community will be able to oversee the planning of the project, according to Smith. "(Grosvenor) know they have to sell what they propose to build to this community," he said.
The area needs to be revitalized, according to Smith, who described the block as a shantytown and said the police station was completely inadequate.
One of the major points of contention Tuesday night was council's intention to sell the land to Grosvenor, pending approval of the final design.
"This property should be leased and not sold," said Elaine Fonseca.
"A long-term lease was not in the district's best interests," said Mark Chan, the district's manager of corporate initiatives.
Grosvenor is also not interested in leasing the land, according to Chan.
At a council meeting the night before, dozens of residents weighed in on the proposed sale and redevelopment, the majority of them in opposition.
"I strongly oppose the terms of sale for 1300 Marine," said one resident. "I've heard this meeting is only about the sale and not about the height and density. However I think that is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst, because the terms of sale are directly linked to the density. The purchaser has publicly stated they have no intention of building at or near the 1.75 (floor surface ratio) allowed by the OCP here and elsewhere in Ambleside. In fact, the sale agreement would fall apart without minimum density. All of you know, or if you don't you should, that density is the mother of height. . . . This is not in harmony with the small town atmosphere of our village," she said to applause.
Sandra Miles said support for the sale was being driven mostly by business interests, and said residents would end up as "collateral damage."
"We paid for those views, a premium price," she said. "When those business owners go home to the British Properties, to Port Moody or North Vancouver, we're left with the noise, the traffic gridlock and the mess and a barrier from the seashore. If you think a few hundred extra residents will generate enough profit for those quaint little widget sellers you envision, you are sadly mistaken."
"I am very much in support of this," said Jane Monteiro on Monday. "I live here and conduct business here. We've been waiting for this for 30 years. If I hear 'small village' one more time I'm going to fall over. We are not a small village. We're a small township but we have flavour and beautiful businesses that are thriving if we gave them a chance. We don't have enough apartments for people who want to downsize. Opposition is strong but the silent majority is in favour of this. We have a wonderful company which is doing its due diligence."
Monteiro also received wide applause for her comments. The district owns 58 per cent of the block, including the police station, parking lot, and laneway on the south side of Marine Drive. Grosvenor owns the rest of the block. A long-term lease would force Grosvenor to convert their land to a lease, or else the project would be a mixture of purchased-land and leased-land, according to Chan.
Coun. Michael Lewis advised the near-capacity gallery that Tuesday's meeting was only the first step in an exhaustive process.
"I want this project to work on all levels," said Coun. Craig Cameron.
Cameron said he has not decided where the police station should be relocated or what the project will look like, but said he favoured a mix of residential and commercial.
The buildings will exceed four storeys only if it is in the public interest, according to Cameron.
"It does not impede our legislative obligations," he said, discussing his decision to approve the proposed sale.
"It is just the very first, small step," said Coun. Trish Panz, who said she looked forward to a robust consultation with residents.
Coun. Bill Soprovich asked for assurance that extensive public consultation would take place before supporting the proposed sale.
"I assure you that the people who were here tonight . . . will be front and centre," he promised.
While critics of the potential sale to Grosvenor expressed concern over looming towers springing up in Ambleside, supporters of the project cautioned that not completing the deal would also have consequences.
"I'm concerned that the alternative may be that the block will remain in its present state for many years," said former West Vancouver mayor Ron Wood.
The project also received support from former councillor Shannon Walker, who described the rash of failed businesses in the area and called on council to move swiftly.
"If not now, when? If not this, then what?" she said. There have been accusations of Grosvenor wielding an undue influence on council, according to Coun. Nora Gambioli. "I have been approached by many developers in the community asking to go for coffee. I have no relationship whatsoever with Grosvenor."
Coun. Mary-Ann Booth recused herself from the discussion. Residents can find more information about the proposal at westvancouver.ca/1300block.