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Residents' group lobbies for slower city growth

A citizens' group is challenging the City of North Vancouver council to put the brakes on large-scale growth and residential densification within the city. North Van City Voices made its first official appearance at council May 28.

A citizens' group is challenging the City of North Vancouver council to put the brakes on large-scale growth and residential densification within the city.

North Van City Voices made its first official appearance at council May 28. About 20 of the group's members came out for the meeting, most of them emblazoned with black buttons bearing the group's name and slogan, Speak Up.

"We are emphatically not anti-growth. However, we believe the pace of development in the city is out of control," said group member Marc Pederson in a presentation to council.

"We want growth that respects the character and values of neighbourhoods and growth that puts the interest of citizens first."

Pederson said if the city keeps to its projected gain of 17,000 residents by 2041, it will be denser than presentday Tokyo and Athens.

His group finds the planning process to be biased and developer-driven, rather than serving the needs of the community, he said.

Pederson suggested that the city's neighbours, the Districts of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, would be better able to absorb projected increases in population without affecting livability.

Also on the agenda for City Voices is the city's lack of consistent policy when it comes to density bonusing - the process whereby developers pay for amenities in exchange for permission to build more residential units.

The city appears to be losing out as developers are required to pay much less for increased density here than in other Lower Mainland municipalities, said Pederson.

"The policy vacuum is particularly worrying when it occurs in a city in which developers donate tens of thousands of dollars to the election campaigns of politicians responsible for approving their applications for additional density," he said.

But the group may have won a small victory in its first head-to-head with municipal leaders. Council voted unanimously on a motion from Coun. Don Bell to arrange a workshop for staff and council to begin studying the density bonusing issue with the goal of developing a policy.

The group is also asking council to open up its ongoing OCP revision process, now nearing the end of its second phase. Council was supportive of the idea but challenged group members to come up with specific changes that would make the OCP review more open to all.

City Voices also wants the city to take any major development applications underway and include them in the OCP revision - particularly the Harbourfront and Onni developments, which could be approved before the OCP is finished next year.

"There's a potential 2,000 new residents, so if you approve that outside the OCP, you've limited the effectiveness of the OCP," said Fred Dawkins, another group member.

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