Planning to build in Maplewood? Expect delays.
District of North Vancouver council deferred voting on Darwin development company’s planned Maplewood Innovation District for a second time on Monday, pushing a vote to 2020.
The fate of the tech-centric town centre will be decided after the district’s official community plan review is complete, much to the chagrin of Darwin president Oliver Webbe.
“A decision tonight to defer this project will make it impossible for us to meet the timeline of our anchor tenant,” Webbe told council prior to their vote.
While Mayor Mike Little praised Darwin for refining the project, he emphasized the need to finalize an overarching plan before proceeding in Maplewood.
Coun. Mathew Bond differed.
“This term of council has been a lot of deferring and not a lot of deciding,” he said, suggesting council needed to create tomorrow’s rental options.
“Old affordable housing doesn’t just appear out of nowhere, it’s new at some point in time.”
The previous district council also postponed a vote on the innovation hub in July 2018 due to the upcoming municipal election.
After initially proposing 900 units of housing and 1.4-million square feet of business space on the former gravel quarry site, Darwin advanced a more modest development this year, pitching a combined 424,713 square feet of light industrial and office space as well as 250-275 rental units.
Citing the shortage of office and industrial space as well as the possibility of Arc’teryx moving from the North Shore, Coun. Jordan Back said he preferred Darwin’s first, larger proposal.
Arc’teryx is committed to staying on the North Shore, according to the company’s public relations manager Verity King.
“The district’s decision doesn’t impact or delay our plans,” King stated.
Coun. Megan Curren wasn’t supportive of either Maplewood project, advising her colleagues of the fragility of the forested area.
“We’re under attack by a lot of failed policies beginning with colonization,” she said. “We can’t look at all of this environmental and climate circumstances that are happening around the world and not realize that we’re doing it. We’re part of it. So we can be part of changing it.”
The project’s rentals would be reserved for North Shore employees at 10 per cent below 2017 market rates. However, Coun. Jim Hanson suggested that price might still be too high.
It would make “much more sense” to review the district’s OCP before considering Maplewood, Hanson said, noting the traffic in the area.
While she ultimately supported the deferral, Coun. Lisa Muri warned that the same debate awaited council in 2020.
“All you’re doing is deferring it until next summer and then having to start another process to look at the land use plans in Maplewood,” she said.
Muri said she’s had many conversations with Darwin.
“I didn’t use to converse with [Darwin] and now I do. Keep your enemies close, is what my initial thought was,” she said. Still, she said the project felt exclusionary for anyone who wasn’t a young tech employee on a bicycle.
“I felt like it was a party I wasn’t invited to,” she said.
The deferral passed 4-3 with Back, Bond and Curren opposed.
With the Maplewood project set aside, council is set to devote the next 12 to 14 months to a new OCP with a focus on: housing, transportation, climate change and the economy. The review is slated to cost between $360,000 and $395,000.
The review is overdue, according to Coun. Betty Forbes.
While Bond decried reviewing plans rather than employing strategies like rental-only zoning or density bonusing, Forbes advised her colleagues that what worked in one community might not work in the district.
If the district had been doing something right, the community wouldn’t be “in the spot we’re in now,” Forbes said.
The OCP is slated to focus on aligning land use with transportation, diversifying employment lands, creating housing for a diversity of incomes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through compact communities.