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West Vancouver approves 'transformational' plan for Cypress Village development

The deal will see British Pacific Properties develop 3,700 housing units while the district gets 262 acres of Eagleridge park land

The District of West Vancouver has approved a large-scale plan that could eventually see 6,900 people living in a new Cypress Village neighbourhood above the Upper Levels Highway.

In return for allowing greater density, with development of 3,700 housing units – mostly apartments – over the next 25 years, the plan will see British Pacific Properties transfer 262 acres of land in the Eagleridge area to the District of West Vancouver for park dedication.

Both West Vancouver Mayor Mark Sager and British Pacific Properties president Geoff Croll called the vote Tuesday night approving the plan a historic moment.

“It’s a huge milestone for our company and the community,” said Croll after the vote, adding British Pacific Properties had staked its future on West Vancouver for the past 93 years and plans to do so for decades to come.

Essentially the plan forgoes sprawling single-family subdivisions over West Vancouver’s upper lands in favour of a concentrated clustering of dense apartment housing while retaining significant swaths of natural areas.

A new commercial area, community centre, fire hall, sports field, daycare centre and space for a new elementary school are also part of the plan.

Croll said when he first joined the company, he was told “the community was changing and the company needed to change with it.”

The project represents a “transformational” legacy for West Van, he said.

Approval of the Cypress Village plan comes after planning that stretches back across at least three councils over the past decade.

The approval Tuesday night also came after overwhelming support was voiced for the plan at a multi-hour public hearing.

Almost all of the many residents who spoke praised the plan for supplying a diverse mix of housing in a walkable neighbourhood hub while preserving environmental values.

“I think this is hugely significant and a great gift to the community,” said Patricia Bowles.

“It takes a village to build a village,” said Andy Krawczyk, who was chair of one of the public working groups guiding early versions of the plan. Krawczyk added he has faith the deal is a good one for the municipality.

Matt Davies, president and general manager of Cypress Mountain Resort said “we will absolutely be affected by this project” but added he believes that will be positive and provide needed housing.

Currently, “there are very few folks who work on Cypress Mountain who are able to live in West Vancouver,” he said.

West Van resident Coralynn Gehl said she came to speak expecting more opposition to the project “and I’m so happy to see how many people have been in support of it,” she said.

Most of the housing in the phased development will be multi-family, with over 2,580 strata apartments making up 70 per cent of the development. Market rentals will make up about 15 per cent of the project with about 550 units, and below-market affordable rental will make up five per cent with about 185 units.

The plan calls for a mix of mid-size buildings in the range of four to six storeys as well as taller highrise towers up to 25 storeys.

Consultants estimated the number of new residents living in the development at 300 in five years, 1,700 in 10 years and 6,900 when the project is completed in up to 25 years.

A financial analysis put the value of lands British Pacific could develop under existing zoning at $500 million – a figure which has guided negotiations with the municipality.

Access to the village will be through an upgraded Cypress Bowl Road and from a road to be built connecting the Westmount Road highway interchange into the neighbourhood. A bus paid for by British Pacific Properties will also provide a connection to Park Royal.

The proposed land use plan for British Pacific Properties' Cypress Village above Highway 1 in West Vancouver. | DWV

Despite the generally positive reception, there were still some questions about parts of the deal from both council and members of the public.

Coun. Nora Gambioli asked what the definition of affordable housing is in the plan and what assurance there was that would be built in the first phase of development.

Staff said “affordable” was defined as paying 70 per cent of market rents and that British Pacific Properties would transfer those sites to the district to develop with a non-profit partner.

“It’s a relatively small proportion of the housing,” director of planning Jim Bailey acknowledged. “In order to get Eagleridge, we had to make tradeoffs.”

Coun. Christine Cassidy also questioned why the McGavin Field site next to the current Cypress Pop-Up was slated for a school and sports field, under the plan. “Wouldn’t it be a gorgeous site to put a hotel,” she said.

Bailey said the land was transferred to the district as part of a previous deal with British Pacific Properties but it came with conditions, spelled out in a covenant.

Cassidy said such questions need to be asked. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the money. They’re going to build a project but they’re going to make a profit. And the theory at present, this is being presented as a symbiotic relationship, and I just want to make sure it is a symbiotic relationship, and that the residents and taxpayers of West Vancouver are getting the best value for their money.”

Gambioli called the project “the single largest project since the inception of this district,” and had come after years of “thoughtful and articulate feedback.”

Coun. Cassidy, Linda Watt and Peter Lambur wanted to delay third reading of the project bylaws by two weeks, but the majority of council voted to proceed 4-3 in favour.

Following the vote, Croll said Cypress Village will eventually become another neighbourhood hub in West Vancouver, like Horseshoe Bay or Ambleside.

He said the first part of the development – the village core – would probably see its first residents move in in about five years.

“West Van’s always had this village atmosphere,” he said. “We’re just adding to that. We’re the village on the mountain.”

An artist's drawing of what British Pacific Properties' development of Cypress Village above Highway 1 in West Vancouver might look like. | DWV