Ambleside Park is getting a new outdoor workout area.
That was among more than a dozen of updates offered by Mayor Mark Sager at his first annual chinwag with the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s members, Thursday.
Sager used the platform to tout council’s accomplishments almost six months since the election and offer a preview into his legislative agenda for the term ahead.
The CrossFit-type gym will open just east of the Ambleside skate park where an old cinderblock storage building sits today. Initially, Park Royal’s parent company Larco offered to build the gym outside their recently approved development on Clyde Avenue, but Sager convinced them it would get much better use in the park, along the waterfront. Larco is picking up the tab for the project, Sager added.
“It’s going to be a really great little vibe,” he said. “There’s going to be a place that we can all get together and work out and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Pressed by chamber members on economic development, Sager acknowledged that getting permits from the district is “horrendously slow,” but said council has a goal to get current wait times reduced to six-to-eight weeks for single-family homes and two weeks for businesses.
Sager said council will be forging ahead on both the Ambleside and Taylor Way local area plans simultaneously, which should lead to revitalization rather quickly.
“Once the Ambleside local area plan is done, I really hope we start to see almost immediately some redevelopment,” he said. “What we’ve got to do is find a way to get the message out to the development community that if you come in with something this community likes, it’s not going to take forever to get done.”
Sager said he’s been working to woo in a boutique hotel into the 1500 block of Bellevue Avenue, and he suggested council is “very close” to a deal on acquiring a site for a new arts centre at no cost to taxpayers. Sager also spotlighted the new council’s first budget, which brought a 4.14 per cent increase in taxes – still one of the lowest increases in Metro Vancouver.
Asked to address affordable housing, Sager said council has some preliminary plans in the works, including asking developers to offer deep discounts to buyers of new suites if they work within West Van. Council will also be looking to induce rent-to-own suites that would be desirable for local teachers, police and firefighters, he added and they are floating an idea of using affordable housing funds to offer interest-free loans to new buyers in the community if they commit to working for the municipality, its first responder agencies or the school district for a period of 10 years.
“These are just discussion points right now, but we’re going to have to think out of the box to address it,” he said.
Sager noted there are currently 69 unfilled jobs within the municipality – eight at West Vancouver Police Department alone – and 20 per cent of job offers the district puts out are rejected.
“So, it clearly is reflecting. We’ve got an issue in getting people into the community,” he said.
Sager also foreshadowed a pending council decision on Cypress Village, a brand new neighbourhood to be developed off Cypress Bowl Road.
“If you’re not familiar with that, please become familiar with it,” he said, noting that it will also see much of the Upper Lands dedicated as park. “It’s going to be wonderful - probably the most important decision this council will make in this term. I think that’s something that will impact on the backdrop of Metro Vancouver in perpetuity.”
On transportation, Sager pointed to TransLink’s recent agreement to bring back a UBC express bus to serve the community, which drew applause from attendees.
Less progress has been made though on Sager’s campaign promise to introduce a new on-demand shuttle bus system dubbed “Baby blue” to bring people from the hillier neighbourhods down to Marine Drive, giving them quicker access to the rest of the public transit system.
“Either we’re going to do it with TransLink or we’re going to tell them we’ll just do it on our own,” he said.
Other items West Vancouver residents can expect to see action on in the coming months are a crackdown on derelict or unkempt properties, renewed water lot leases around Eagle Island, and new and nicer permanent outdoor patios on the street in Dundarave.