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Split council OK’s Onni bowling bid

City of North Vancouver council votes 4-3 to allow unplanned 10-pin alley underground at CentreView condo towers

If you dig it, they will bowl.

That was the outcome of Monday’s City of North Vancouver council meeting in which a Central Lonsdale bowling alley was approved and a disgruntled neighbour-to-be was ejected.

The developer, Onni Group, was excavating their 24- and 18-storey towers on the old Safeway site on 13th Street and Lonsdale Avenue when they realized there was space enough for storage, parking and a 7,884-square-foot bowling alley.

This realization occurred during the “fine tuning” process and was not an over-excavation, according to an Onni representative who spoke to council. A city staff report stated the site of the bowling alley: “was not originally contemplated to be excavated,” and not shown on the plans.

The subterranean bowling alley would likely consist of six lanes of 10-pin bowling and four or five pool tables.

The 7,884 square foot facility will fit “bang on” into the site, according to real estate agent David England, who spoke on behalf of the proprietors of the alley and assured council the lanes would be regulation length.

His comments contradicted a previous staff report stating space constraints would require a “non-traditional layout” in the alley.

Onni has agreed to pay the city $275,940. The number was reached by calculating the value of density in an underground parking lot at $35 per square foot. An equivalent density could be worth as much as $1.1 million if used for condos, according to a city staff report.

Taking any amount of money four years after approving the initial development plan is unacceptable, according to Coun. Pam Bookham.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the money that is being offered to the city because I think it makes us complicit.”

With the development’s 344 units set to be filled in the coming weeks, council should defer their decision until the neighbours weigh in, according to potential neighbour Robert Dickinson, who strenuously objected to the process.

“I don’t want to live overtop of a bowling alley,” he said, suggesting he may pursue legal action.

City staff assured council all legal requirements have been met, as the bowling alley addition was publicized with prominent signage, mailouts, and information meetings.

Dickinson’s concerns go beyond council’s purview, according to Coun. Holly Back.

“It’s not up to council to say what business goes in anywhere,” she said.

The city has a “fiduciary duty” to consult with the people who will live above the bowling alley, argued Coun. Rod Clark.

“Thumbs down to Onni, thumbs down to the bowling alley.”

Coun. Craig Keating differed, stating the agreement between Onni and the Dickinsons is “nothing to do with us.”

Keating also suggested some of the objections were without merit, noting pool tables are not a “moral hazard” and that bowling alleys don’t necessarily lead to lawlessness.

With a restaurant and a row of offices between the bowling alley and the residences, noise should not be an issue, Back suggested.

The choice before council boiled down to either providing extra storage space for the building’s tenants or an attraction for the community, according to Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

“I would like to see an amenity that people in the city can use,” he said.

As a frequent proponent of storage space, Coun. Don Bell took a different view, joining Clark in suggesting the decision be delayed until tenants weigh in.

With recreation in short supply, the bowling alley will serve a demographic “who actually want to do other things within our city besides sit in restaurants or a bar and drink,” according to Coun. Linda Buchanan.

The proponent is planning to apply for a liquor licence, something Buchanan suggested she may not support.

Council supported the bowling alley 4-3 with Couns. Clark, Bookham and Bell dissenting. Following the decision, Dickinson repeatedly talked over Mussatto, railing about what he called an undemocratic process until he was escorted out by security.

The bowling alley will not be included in the development’s floor space ratio. There is a precedent for such exclusions, as below-grade cellars are routinely omitted from floor area calculations in townhouses, noted a staff report.