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Divisive infill housing project moves ahead in Horseshoe Bay

A divisive infill housing project in Horseshoe Bay is going to the public for vetting.

A divisive infill housing project in Horseshoe Bay is going to the public for vetting.

Tantalus Gardens – six small single-family homes and eight duplexes over one parkade between Wellington and Nelson avenues – was put on ice by council in May after it was roundly panned by its nearest neighbours.

At issue for the opponents was the change of neighbourhood character, the increase in density bringing traffic and parking concerns, tree removal and, most importantly, the loss of the public assembly zoning at the site of the former St. Monica’s Anglican Church, which the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster closed in 2013.

Council opted to wait until the first phase of the Horseshoe Bay local area plan was complete before giving the project a second look. Since its first appearance at council, the developer canvassed 550 residents and business representatives within 900 metres of the site and found 472 letters of support compared to just 46 who were opposed, according to a district staff report.

That was cold comfort for nearby resident Melody Nobel who urged council to reject the proposal.

“I would trust the community members more than the survey,” she said.

Coun. Sharon Thompson said she has personally seen a lot of support for the project but added she respects the views of people who want to see the church land retained for public use.

“What I’m hoping to see from that group is a real substantive plan,” she said. “I love the whole idea of what they’re trying to accomplish with that concept, but I need to see some viability in that.”

Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said her worst fear for the site would be seeing it redeveloped into new single-family homes, or continued dithering contributing to a further decline in West Vancouver’s population.

“This project looks good to me. It has from the beginning,” she said. “This deserves to go to a public hearing.”

When it came down to a vote, only Coun. Bill Soprovich was opposed, on the basis that the it should be tied to the results of the local area plan, due sometime in 2020.

“I will support local area planning to the end,” he said.

Coun.Craig Cameron disagreed though, and noted the project is already in compliance with the official community plan, and that the developer has been waiting for a vote since well before the Horseshoe Bay local area plan process started.

“I think the applicant is entitled to a decision one way or the other and I think endlessly kicking the can down the road may feel easier in some respects when it’s somewhat controversial in the neighbourhood, but I think it’s poor governance,” he said.

Coun. Nora Gambioli recused herself from the discussion and vote because she owns property nearby.

The public hearing for the project has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m.