DNV council splits twice on Lions Gate townhouse project

This article has been amended.

Council opposed moving forward and opposed postponing a forward move during Monday’s meeting.

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The discussion was meant to offer developer PC Urban early input on their application to build a three-storey townhouse on the 1900 block of Glenaire Drive, with council voting to either proceed with, defer, revise or reject the project. But at the end of a 35-minute discussion three councillors favoured deferring, three supported proceeding, and Coun. Megan Curren said the project should be revised.

The project might be acceptable if “we weren’t staring down two urgent crises” of growing inequity and the climate emergency, Curren explained.

Curren noted that replacing two-single family homes with 15 townhouses aligns with the district’s aims on housing diversity. She also praised the applicant’s pledge to produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than mandated during construction. Ultimately, however, the district needs largely car-free, purpose-built rental and social housing as opposed to “million-dollar plus market townhomes,” Curren concluded.

“We need transformative, not incremental policies.”

“I don’t believe this is a transformative council,” replied Coun. Mathew Bond.

While Bond said he’d endorse six floors of rental on the site, he opted to back the townhouse development as opposed to a “hypothetical project.”

“We’ve got three people on council that aren’t going to approve any market development at this point in time,” Bond said. “If you don’t have any market development you’re not going to get any portion of that being rental or non-market rental.”

Coun. Betty Forbes took umbrage at Bond’s characterization.

“I’m offended that a councillor would assume what my vote is going to be,” she said.

Forbes also defended council’s record.

“As far as I’m concerned we are being transformative.”

Explaining that she would prefer to offer housing for families who have been evicted or renovicted, Forbes voted to defer the project pending a review of the district’s official community plan.

“There’s a lot of reasons why I think this needs to be deferred at the moment; and it will be.”

Noting nearby developments in various stages of completion, Coun. Jim Hanson also supported deferral, explaining the community’s desire to “take a pause.”

However, Hanson added he would support a rental development on the site.

“I will vote in favour of any and all rental-only zoning proposals,” he promised.

Council previously approved a 150-unit development just east of Dollarton Avenue. There are another 151 units in Lions Gate either approved or under construction. The community centre at 2035 Fullerton Ave. is set to open in 2021.

Coun. Jordan Back voted to proceed.

“While we wait to define affordable and define those types of housing that we’re actually prepared to approve, I think we should approve something that’s relatively modest like this one,” he said.

It might be rental but that doesn’t mean it will be cheap, Coun. Lisa Muri said in voting to defer.

“You can’t just build rental for the sake of rental and somehow have that suggest that it’s going to be affordable,” she said. “This was a single-family neighbourhood at one time. It has been completely wiped out.”

The project has “enough good going for it” to send it to public hearing, Mayor Mike Little said.

Little asked Curren if she would break the deadlock by voting to proceed or defer.

“There isn’t a path forward unless you’re willing to change your vote,” he said.

“I’d like to see a different project, a better project,” Curren replied.

Council voted 4-3 against deferring, with Bond, Back, Little and Curren opposed. Council then voted 4-3 against proceeding with Muri, Hanson, Forbes and Curren opposed.

“Council, sorry, I wish we could give staff more clear direction,” Little said.

This article has been corrected to note that the rec centre at 2035 Fullerton Ave. is set to open in 2021, not 2020.

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