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West Vancouver mulls Park Royal towers

Proposal proceeds for more public consult
The view down Taylor Way after Larco's new Park Royal towers are built, should West Vancouver council give them approval.

While the proposed Park Royal highrises were heralded as an opportunity to bring in affordable housing for disabled people, the mall itself was also called out as being a bad neighbour at the District of West Vancouver's Monday night council meeting.

The shopping centre's proposed two towers of 24 and 17 storeys above a twostorey commercial podium at 752 Marine Drive could include more than a few hundred residential units, office space, a village square and storefronts. It may also provide the Vancouver Resources Society, a nonprofit that provides services for the physically disabled, 10 accessible units for those with a disability or mobility issues.

Chris Kirby, member of the society's housing advisory committee, has lived with his wheelchair for the last 22 years when he had an accident the day before Christmas. He told council the 10 units would go a long way to make an otherwise expensive neighbourhood more accessible for people like him.

"Being able to live in this community is huge for people with disabilities," he said. "The other option is an institution. I have friends who live in these circumstances, and it's not pretty. Living in the community allows people with a disability to participate in life, instead of watching it go by."

Kirby, who has friends and family living on the North Shore, said living in the Park Royal highrises would put himself within reasonable distance of grocery stores, shops and employment opportunities.

"It certainly makes a huge impact to accessibility of an entire community and a person with a disability, such as myself," he added.

On Monday night, council was updated on the status of the proposed towers that may take over the former White Spot location. Andrew Browne, senior community planner, told council following a staff review and obtaining preliminary public comments, the project was found as favourable overall.

Through a series of open houses, information sessions and a virtual open house since last year, about 40 to 50 per cent of those polled supported the proposal. About 15 to 20 per cent were unsupportive, while the rest were balanced with pros and cons.

"What was heard was an interesting mix," Browne said. "There was a lack of detail in comments about anything beyond traffic. Traffic was really drowning out everything else. Clearly, traffic is an issue."

Despite the possibility of adding another bus stop near the site, Barbara Brink, member of the ad hoc committee at West Royal, said there's been a lack of recognition that the Taylor Way and Marine Drive intersection is "all too often a nightmare for all vehicles coming on the North Shore."

"We're not opposed to the two-tower concept at all," she told council. "Yes, there's lots of major centres across the Lower Mainland: Surrey, Metrotown and Oakridge. All of these have residential (units), all have commercial (proponents), but they also have two things we do not have - access ... and also major transit."

Brink pointed out that last year, council had aimed to secure at least 2,000 people through the initial consultation process and have at least 700 responses. However, the district fell significantly short of its goal with only 88 comment forms submitted by the public.

It also did not include the 800-signature petition calling for the resolution of traffic congestion at Marine and Taylor Way, Brink noted. She said 90 per cent of the petition's signatures are from West Vancouver residents.

Council also heard from Arash Atash, who has lived across from Park Royal for the last 14 years. He said when Park Royal was undergoing expansion at the end of last year, there was construction activity through the day and night for three months. He complained to the district, the mall and the police, but to no avail.

"When it comes to noise issues and respecting neighbours' peace, Park Royal is probably the worst neighbour one can ask for," he added.

While council did not put its rubberstamp of approval on the proposal yet, it advanced the application to move forward and allowed the next steps to occur, which include public consultation, a more in-depth staff report on potential OCP amendments and development level drawings.

Coun. Nora Gambioli said the district must be cautious in moving forward because the public wants something of reasonable scale. She noted that more must be done to consult local residents as well.

Coun. Craig Cameron echoed Gambioli's concerns, and said it's still a grey area regarding how much density should be allowed for this development.

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