How much should developers pay to build in West Vancouver? Uplift measures the increase in land value brought about by a rezoning. In West Vancouver, developers must pay the district 75 per cent of the increase before they can lay down foundation for a new project.
In the case of 2074 Fulton Ave., the district rezoned the single-family lot to allow three two-storey infill homes to be built.
The uplift, calculated at $60,000, was far too conservative, according to frequent council-spectator George Pajari.
"Here's another example of the appraiser being woefully inaccurate," Pajari said.
"We're not off by 10 per cent, 30 per cent, 60 per cent. We're off by 500 per cent."
Before its rezoning, the home sold for $1.85 million in November, 2012.
Appraisal firm Burgess, Cawley, Sullivan and Associates noted downward market trends in their evaluation, which put the Fulton Avenue property's value at $1.35 million as a single-family lot and $1.41 as a multi-family lot.
Pajari had previously objected to the $155,000 uplift on the Hollyburn Mews project. The nine-unit, three-lot development should have been valued at more than $2 million, according to Pajari.
However, the appraisal refers strictly to the land value.
"We don't compensate people if they don't make money," said district community planning manager Geri Boyle.
While land value may increase with a rezoning, the price of a new development is relevant to the developer - not the district, according to Boyle.
After the district released an executive summary rather than the complete report, Pajari filed a successful freedom of information act request in order to double-check the district's numbers on the lot.
The firm's full report could have been released with only minor redactions, according to Pajari.
"I. .. plan to write a letter to council and possibly speak during public question period pointing out that planning (department) pulled the wool over council's eyes and the public's eyes unnecessarily. The fact that an FOI released 99.5 per cent of the document proves they could've given that to council," he said. "Their excuse was an exaggeration, to put it politely."
Performing an accurate appraisal is an art, according to Boyle.
The Fulton Avenue estimate was complicated by the lack of recent townhouse development in West Vancouver. "That's a real difficulty in West Van because we don't have the volume," Boyle said. "On the Fulton property, what kind of comparables do we have? We just don't."
The development is intended to serve as a test case for West Vancouver, with similar developments prohibited everywhere except that block of Fulton Avenue.
"For now we have that block, and we'll see how the community really adapts," Boyle said.
For Pajari, the debate over 2074 Fulton is a skirmish before the battle over Grosvenor's development in the 1300-block of Marine Drive.
"That uplift is estimated to be in the range of $8 million," Pajari said.
Burgess, Cawley, Sullivan and Associates are also scheduled to appraise the land on the south side of the 1300-block.
"When I need to question the credibility of a BCS report, I now have a second example in which they underestimated the uplift by almost a factor of five," said Pajari.
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