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West Vancouver OKs budget to pave gravel lane near church

Two members of council argue that a paving project outside St. Francis-in-the-Wood Church isn’t necessary
Council has approved the budget to pave a small section of Piccadilly South in West Vancouver, which also serves as parking for an adjacent park. | Google Earth

Instead of a pot-holey gravel lane, road users near a West Vancouver church would rather be living on a paver.

At a meeting on Jan. 22, council approved a motion to pave the parking area at Pilot Road House Park and St. Francis-in-the-Wood Church with interlocking brick.

While most of council voted in favour, Couns. Nora Gambioli and Christine Cassidy dissented, objecting to the district paving a park area for the benefit of a non-municipal organization, and using community amenity contribution funds in an area not building any more density.

But with the motion passed, staff will now determine the feasibility of doing the paving work on a budget of $50,000.

The gravel area in front of St. Francis-in-the-Wood is showing its age, said John Moonen, chair of the church’s repairs fundraising committee.

“I think this is the only part of Piccadilly that remains unpaved. And I haven’t done a complete survey, but it must be one of the last dirt roads in West Vancouver,” he said. “There’s potholes, erosion … failing edges. So there needs to be some hard surfacing.”

It’s not just parishioners using the lane, Moonen added. There’s a Montessori school, people going to the park and attendees of other events at the church.

In terms of road surface materials, Moonen said the church’s preference is interlocking pavers rather than asphalt, as the bricks “would complement what our neighbour has done with their driveway.”

After the church’s presentation, Mayor Mark Sager said – perhaps in jest – that if the current budget isn’t enough, that people in council chambers could do some of the work themselves.

“Is $50,000 enough to do this? Or will we be putting on our gumboots?” he asked staff.

In a previous report, based on an existing contract with a paving contractor, those costs came in higher than the budgeted amount, said Jenn Moller, district director of engineering and transportation services.

“We’ll probably refine [and] have a closer look at the limits of the paving area,” Moller said. “We’ll go out to market to see if through a competitive bidding process, if the costs come in within the desired budget and will report back to council.”

Coun. Christine Cassidy remarked that she’d been to the “gorgeous” church numerous times, but said paving the lane isn’t necessary.

“If I were to be honestly representing the taxpayers of West Vancouver, I need to be thinking of the areas which have the greatest use, and that would be the sidewalks in Ambleside, Dundarave and Horseshoe Bay,” she said.

Sager chimed in with a clarification that the project would be funded through community amenity contributions – paid to the district through new developments – not taxpayer money.

Cassidy shot back that “those community amenity contributions arrive in our pockets at the district because neighbourhoods within this district have had to accept densification,” which is not the case near St. Francis-in-the-Wood.

Paving lane not in district's short- or long-term capital plans, staff says

Coun. Nora Gambioli said that she hadn’t heard the result of community discussions that took place since the matter was last heard at council.

Moonen said there was no dissent among the parishioners. “We have two neighbours up Piccadilly who wanted to keep it as a dirt road. But they like the paving and they’re no longer objecting to making the improvements.”

“It’s not our road. It’s not our parking lot. It belongs to you. And it’s dangerous. And it needs to be fixed,” he added.

In response, Gambioli asked staff if the road is dangerous and needs to be replaced.

“Periodically we conduct maintenance to even the surface,” Moller said. “I don’t believe it’s dangerous.”

The lane isn’t in the district’s short- or long-term capital plans to resurface the area, she added.

Gambioli expressed concern that approving this work could be a bad policy to set.

“I’m concerned that if word gets out that we are spending $50,000 paving parking which is actually in a park, for the benefit of a church … we’re going to get some requests from the other 13 places of worship [in West Van] because I’m sure they all need a coat of paint and need to fix the potholes in their parking lot.”

With the Montessori school and weddings that “the whole community delights in,” Coun. Sharon Thompson said St. Francis-in-the-Wood goes beyond the average church the way of community contribution.

“I don’t like it when you say, ‘If you do one thing, it’s going to set a standard for 13 other churches to come forward and put out their hands,” she said. “This is not that sort of case at all. And I think it’s kind of offensive to think so.”

After council voted to approve the work, Sager said: “We’ll look forward to seeing you all out there with your work boots on.”

A date has not yet been set for the matter to return to council.

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