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'Time to move on,' says City of North Van mayor

After 13 years at the helm, Darrell Mussatto plans to step away from city politics following the Oct. 20 municipal election
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This article has been amended since first posting.

After 13 years at the helm, City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto announced Tuesday he plans to step away from city politics following the Oct. 20 municipal election.

“It’s time to move on,” he said.

A 25-year political career – including four terms as mayor, four terms as a city councillor, and stints as Metro Vancouver utilities committee chairman and a member of the TransLink Mayors Committee – can “take a bit of a toll on your personal life,” Mussatto explained.

Mussatto’s time in the mayor’s chair coincided with a boom that added approximately 7,700 residents to the city as well as a housing crisis that saw the city’s vacancy rate dip to 0.3 per cent.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount for affordable housing,” Mussatto said, noting constraints including a lack of capacity in the city.

Mussatto’s focus on density led to a clash on council in 2014 over a proposal that would have allowed homeowners to add a secondary suite or coach house, but not both.

“If we were to close down every secondary suite in a single family home or duplex we would have a mass exodus ... . There’d be people living in tents on Grand Boulevard,” Mussatto said during a debate.

In 2017, council voted unanimously to allow a secondary suite and coach house on every lot in the city.

While at least one councillor favoured mandating three parking spots per lot, Mussatto suggested housing should be the priority.

“Maybe we can look at housing people as a priority as opposed to housing our cars.”

Housing was also the focus during the 2016 rezoning of Moodyville, which is expected to quadruple the neighbourhood’s previous population.

“This is the future. The days of everybody having a single-family home, unfortunately, are not here anymore,” Mussatto said then. “We can’t cut down trees anymore and put in houses. We can’t use the farmland, we can’t fill in the inlet, so our only choice is to do better with what we have.”

Challenger Kerry Morris bashed Mussatto’s preference for development during the 2014 mayoralty election. The closely contested vote saw Mussatto beating Morris by about 900 votes. The mayor was backed by developers Pinnacle International and RPMG Holdings, the parent company of Onni., as well as unions and employers like Neptune Terminals and Seaspan.

Reducing the city’s carbon footprint has been a major focus for Mussatto.

Under Mussatto’s watch, the city expanded Lonsdale Energy Corp., inking a deal to add a $17.9 million heat recovery facility to the new Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Mussatto also focused on “making the public realm a really great place for everyone.”

“Lower Lonsdale was a big priority for me,” he said. “I really wanted to see that abandoned industrial area transformed into a cool, urban environment for all.”

Mussatto also championed cycling in the city. The city’s portion of the North Shore-spanning Spirit Trail and the central-Lonsdale focused Green Necklace are both set for completion this summer.

The final leg of the Green Necklace, which was dubbed “the black necklace” by critics, was unanimously supported by council in December 2017.

“I do believe that council has united,” Mussatto said. “We all have our disagreements but we’re not disagreeable anymore.”

Credit needs to be shared for “great public spaces” like Loutet Farm and Mahon Park, he said. “It’s not me that needs to take the credit . . . it’s the council, it’s the staff and it’s the community.”

Mussatto said he hoped his decision might spur other residents to “think about how they can get involved and give back to the community.”

Morris has confirmed his plan to run for mayor. Former councillor Guy Heywood has said he’s “thinking about thinking about” running. Others rumoured to be considering a run for mayor did not get back to the News.

Mussatto declined to endorse a candidate.

“I’m just blessed to be able to have a strata unit,” he said. “North Vancouver’s ... where I was born and probably where I die.”

 

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