Ambleside highrise quashed

Split West Vancouver council sends 15-storey tower back to drawing board

Eleven feet of width on a proposed 15-storey tower in Ambleside came between West Vancouver council who voted 3-2 Monday night to send the project back to the drawing board.

Cressey Seaview Development Ltd. was asking for a development permit for the site at 2290 Marine Drive  already zoned for a high rise apartment building.

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Currently on the site sits a five-storey, 47-unit residential building with a surface parking lot partially covered by the building, and is bordered by Marine Drive to the north, and 23rd Street and Bellevue Avenue to the west and south. The neighbourhood is home to multi-family residential in the form of five-storey apartment buildings and towers up to 19 storeys.

Cressey is proposing to redevelop the site with a residential tower with three segments varying in height from 10 to 15 storeys, along with three townhouses at the base of the building that will feature a glass and stone esthetic. The 35 residential units will start at approximately 2,000 square feet in size.

Also included in the proposal are 86 underground parking stalls, seven of which will be visitor, representing an average of 2.25 stalls per unit. Cressey sought a variance of 43 fewer parking stalls, as West Vancouver bylaws require one stall per unit or one stall per approximately 900 square feet of building area.

Staff stated, in a report to council, the amount of stalls being proposed is sufficient as the floor plans include generous living and dining areas, but “not an unusual number of bedrooms.”

Cressey was also proposing a mix of parallel and angled parking on the streets around the site: 21 spaces on Bellevue and 15 spaces on 23rd Street.

The proposal’s call for the width of the building to be extended by 11 feet beyond what West Vancouver currently allows for the first 10 storeys, was a source of contention for Couns. Craig Cameron and Bill Soprovich.

Soprovich pointedly asked the project’s architect, Martin Bruckner with IBI Group, why they didn’t stay within the bylaws in relation to the building width. Bruckner explained the extra width allows for a more interesting architectural form that would be visually appealing and not overbearing to the neighbourhood, instead of a classic slab tower form they wanted to avoid.

Soprovich then asked if adding more width allowed for more usable space for inhabitants.

“Not necessarily, no,” said Bruckner. “But our program is to have a limited number of suites.”

Saying there is no rationale for why the width variance is necessary, Cameron observed from the project renderings the bulk of the extra width is in the extension of the balconies in the western-most units from floors one to 10.

Cameron’s concern was that residents of single-family homes north of the site would have their views of the water blocked by a building 10 per cent wider than the current allowance.

Cameron also figured the developer would be saving approximately $1.6 million by not including the extra 43 spaces that is currently required, adding in the “high-end building” people will most likely have more than one car, and could foresee some of those extra vehicles winding up on the street where parking is already at a premium.

Coun. Christine Cassidy echoed Cameron’s sentiments, saying she receives concerns all the time about lack of parking in West Vancouver, while pointing out there is a nice path near the proposed new building to the Centennial Seawalk and the community could benefit from more parking there.

Coun. Mary-Ann Booth, meanwhile, was supportive of the new tower proposal for Ambleside, saying it is a “lovely, well-designed” building whereas some of the highrises built in the area in the ’60s and ’70s are “horrendous.”

“I like the fact the architect has been creative,” said Booth. “We aren’t just getting a box. I really have a problem with council enforcing the rules to get a lesser product just for the sake of it.”

Mayor Michael Smith said he was shocked by how unreceptive the other councillors were to the project. “We have a tough problem attracting really quality developers to come into West Vancouver,” said Smith, who along with Booth voted against the motion.

Couns. Nora Gambioli and Michael Lewis were absent from Monday’s meeting, the last one before summer break.

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