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Sun rising on West Vancouver lane division

WV council sends Sunset Lane subdivision bylaw to hearing

DISTRICT of West Vancouver council has introduced a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow for the subdivision of Sunset Lane lands.

If approved, the rezoning would resolve a lengthy land-access and ownership negotiation between the municipality and BC Rail Properties, who are seeking to sell the land to adjacent property owners.

"I think the frustrating thing about Sunset Lane is that on the surface it all looks pretty straightforward . . . but when you look at it, you realize that there are a number of different stakeholders and everybody has a slightly different interest or slightly different approach to how they think the issue should be addressed," said Bob Sokol, the district's director of planning, lands and permits, at last week's council meeting.

Sunset Lane, located parallel to Marine Drive, runs adjacent to the railway line starting at Creery Avenue. The roadway, which serves as an access point for residents of 14 neighbouring properties on Marine Drive, is currently owned by BC Rail Properties.

Access and use of the land has been a well recognized problem for some time, and has plagued a handful of residents for more than 30 years.

"It has been a problem for as long as I have been alive," said Mark Sager, who represented the 14 affected property owners at the Sept. 19 council meeting. "I use to deliver newspapers on that street, and it was a problem back then."

The zoning amendment bylaw introduced on Monday would allow for the creation of substandard - or smaller lots - and includes provisions related to the placement of garages adjacent to the lane, recognizing the shallow depth of the lots.

If approved, the bylaw would permit council to approve the subdivision of BC Rail Property lands, which would clear the way for the subsequent purchase or lease of the newly created lots to the adjacent property owners. As part of the negotiations, Sunset Lane, together with the cost of maintaining it, would be dedicated to the district.

"BC Rail Properties went a long way in trying to address some of the issues we raised and the residents raised," said Sokol.

According to a district staff report, BC Rail Properties are offering a 10 per cent discount to adjacent property owners who agree to purchase the newly created lot within three months of subdivision.

The company will also offer residents not wishing to purchase the land the option to lease it from BC Rail Properties for $500 a year plus property taxes - the terms of which are transferable upon sale of the parent property to a new owner.

BC Rail Properties will also pay the district $150,000 towards the reconstruction of Sunset Lane, estimated to cost $450,000.

Affected residents attending Monday night's council meeting expressed hope that the bylaw amendment would lead to the resolution of the long-standing and stressful roadway issue, but pushed council for reassurances of their rights as property owners.

"It is our hope that we will have something more than simply a letter - that that commitment (to lease the lots to adjacent property owners) will actually form part of that covenant that will go on title to each of those lots so that should BC Rail change, as crown corporations can, that those property owners are protected," said Sager.

Sager also introduced new concern over BC Rail Properties' unwillingness to accept offers already made by residents.

"I do have in my possession an offer from each and every one of the owners - unfortunately, BC Rail has not been willing to accept those offers, which we found somewhat unusual," said Sager on Monday night.

"It had been our hope, and perhaps is still our hope, to come forward at the public hearing and be able to advise you that the owners have agreed to buy all of those lots so that the problem would be wiped out immediately."

A detailed presentation on specifics of the zoning amendment bylaw will be made at a public hearing On Oct. 17 in the West Vancouver council chamber.