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West Van to request rezoning exemption for Eagle Island lots

Provincially-required changes will mean additional coach houses or secondary suites can be built on 180 district lots
Eagle Island
West Vancouver will ask the province to exempt lots on Eagle Island from new rezoning requirements allowing more housing. A view of Eagle Island from the West Vancouver Yacht Club.| Cindy Goodman / North Shore News

The District of West Vancouver is moving towards rezoning approximately 200 residential lots in the municipality to allow additional coach houses and secondary suites, in line with new provincial legislation.

The move, comes after the province gave municipalities a deadline of June 30 to bring local bylaws into line with new rules allowing greater density on single-family lots to supply more "small scale housing."

But the district will also make a case to the province to exempt 34 lots on Eagle Island from the rules, saying densifying the island could bring a host of unintended consequences, including strain on infrastructure and the marine environment.

Most single-family lots in the rest of West Vancouver already allow both secondary suites and coach houses, so won’t be impacted by the change.

About 180 district properties to be impacted by zoning changes

About 220 properties – or about 1.6 per cent of the total in the district – will have their allowable density increased as a result of the provincially-mandated rezoning, once it is approved. Of those, about 45 are already apartment lots, said senior planner David Hawkins, so the actual number of lots impacted will be closer to 180.

Hawkins stressed the new rules don’t require owners to build on their properties and will only impact property owners who decide they want to build additional housing on their lots.

“There’s no requirement when you change zoning for an owner to meet their new zoning or there’s nothing that requires owners to tear down their existing house,” he said.

In some cases – such as the lot with the district-owned Navvy Jack House heritage building on the waterfront where the municipality intends to house a café – that’s extremely unlikely, Hawkins added.

The rules about how many dwellings must be allowed on lots varies depending on the size of the lot and how far it is from major bus routes.

Under the provincial legislation, zoning for most lots must allow a minimum of three homes – through a combination of primary residence, duplex units, coach houses and/or secondary suites. On larger lots over 280 square metres, up to four dwelling units must be allowed. Larger lots within 400 metres of frequent transit will be required to have zoning allowing up to six housing units.

The province has also encouraged municipalities to cut down on parking requirements, consider minimal lot line setbacks and allow homes of up to at least three stories as part of the new zoning requirements.

Concerns expressed about Eagle Island lots

In a report to council, however, planning staff said there are concerns that applying the new zoning rules to parcels on Eagle Island could lead to adverse consequences, including strain on the marine ecosystem, strain on emergency response and a high cost to expand infrastructure on the islands.

“There are definite implications for getting water to an island and waste off an island,” said Hawkins.

Currently, exemptions to the new rules are permitted for unserviced lots and extremely large properties, but there are no procedures for requesting an exemption for other unique circumstances.

Council endorsed the recommendation of planning staff to ask the province for one anyway.

If the province says no, a small area like Eagle Island could potentially see its population quadruple, Hawkins said.

In discussion Monday night, several members of council made it clear they’re not happy with the province dictating rezoning rules to the municipality.

Cassidy denounces new rules as 'socialism, bordering on communism'

“I find this provincial legislation to be highly uncomfortable,” said Coun. Linda Watt.

Coun. Christine Cassidy said she wasn’t going to vote in favour of moving forward on the rezoning, adding it’s time municipalities on the North Shore pushed back. “We should do a Surrey and tell the province to get a grip,” she said. “It’s an extreme form of socialism, bordering on communism.”

Coun. Nora Gambioli told her colleagues, “I think it’s a better idea to be diplomatic with the provincial government than not, warning them the province has made it clear it will impose the rezoning if council doesn’t pass it.

The district is required to give public notice of the changes, but is specifically banned by the provincial government from holding a public hearing on the changes.