There’s consensus on District of North Vancouver council about what should eventually occupy the Delbrook Lands – and plenty of political angst over who should pay for it.
Council members met for an informal workshop Tuesday to give their general blessing for staff to begin drawing up plans for the 1.7-hectare site on Queens Road, including non-market housing, more green space and park amenities and a facility for child care and seniors.
District staff will also start refining cost estimates to build and maintain the items on the community’s wish list, as well as start contacting non-profits and senior levels of government that might be willing to cover capital costs if the district provides the land.
Some very preliminary estimates from district staff include $1.5 to $3 million for parks and green space plus another $50,000 to $60,000 a year in maintenance. A new building for community services like child care and seniors care would be another $3.5 million and a 40-unit non-market housing project would run about $16 million, according to staff’s estimates.
Coun. Jim Hanson said it was likely one of the most important decisions council will make in this term and that staff’s recommendations were in keeping with the community’s wishes. Particularly, Hanson said he was pleased to see concepts with so much open green space, which will be all the more important for residents as the district densifies.
“It’s a balancing of open space and from my view, the more we balance in that direction, the better. For the most part, that’s where my heart is at. Once these open spaces are built upon, they’re going to be there a long time,” he said.
Coun. Mathew Bond praised the process that had produced the ideas for the land, but he suggested that if council plans to offer up district land for affordable housing, they ought to aim for more than 40 units on the entire site. The district’s affordable housing policy aims to create 60 to 100 units of non-market housing each year for the next 10 years, he noted.
“I don’t know of another site in the entirety of the district where we have this big of an opportunity to actually start providing some of those needs for our community. Seeing a number like 40, from my perspective, seems like we’re kind of short-changing ourselves on a huge opportunity,” he said.
Coun. Lisa Muri was adamant that, regardless of future use, none of the land should be sold.
“I would like to lease all of that land. I’m not interested in selling District of North Vancouver land. I think it’s the best investment going and I think we should retain it,” she said.
As for the amount of affordable housing on the site, Muri said she expects the surrounding neighbourhood would like to see less rather than more.
But another contingent on council was worried about sinking more capital into a site when a new $54-million rec centre is opening up just a few blocks away, $28 million of which came from debt that residents around the district are now paying interest on.
“We better look at that. We can’t just ignore that fact,” said Coun. Robin Hicks, who added that any future development on the Delbrook Lands should be cost-neutral. Hicks also suggested there be at least some market housing on the site as well.
“I think that market housing would produce ... a certain amount that would contribute to the rest of the community’s development on the site. I think it would be healthier to have a blend of all types of income on that site – seniors, children and low-income,” he said.
Coun. Roger Bassam said it would be “financially irresponsible” to start building amenities for an area that is already well-served simply because the neighbours are opposed to residential development there.
“I’m concerned with where we’re going with this and the amount of money we’re now starting to draw into this particular location. I don’t think we’ve had the conversation with our community around the financial impacts of this,” he said.
District staff are expected to report back later this fall with firmed up concept design options, fleshed out costs and sources of potential revenue to pay for the plan.