This story has been amended to provide more information.
Council will listen, but who should be talking?
That was the question Monday night as District of North Vancouver council took a small step toward entertaining a two- to four-storey social housing project at the former Delbrook Rec Centre site. The preliminary plan has also pencilled in a park and some type of community services.
Early neighbourhood consultation will be limited to residents within a 200-metre radius of 600 West Queens Road, much to the chagrin of Coun. Mathew Bond.
“I’m cautious and concerned about shifting goalposts on this project,” he said. “I also have concerns about a small number of local residents making a decision that has regional consequences for people across the district.”
Mayor Mike Little was adamant discussions focus on the immediate neighbourhood.
“It’s a special invitation to participate to the neighbours,” he said.
Little suggested council be “cautious about spreading out,” noting the previous local government was criticized for not distinguishing between residents “immediately impacted by the property” and those “who were totally across the community but had been invited as stakeholders.”
Coun. Lisa Muri suggested the radius boundaries be as elastic as possible.
“The more the merrier,” she told staff, advising the border skip over fields and facilities to capture more homes.
Preliminary workshops held with the Delbrook Community Association over the past two months found: “a willingness to consider” a four-storey building with social housing, according to a district staff report. That idea of support for a four storey building “mystified” Delbrook Community Association executive member James Gill, who asked council to respect neighbourhood character.
The inability of council to densify the district’s town centres shouldn’t impact Delbrook residents, Gill said.
“Our neighbourhood should not be singled out to make up for their failure.”
Gill also challenged the notion that Delbrook residents were denying needed housing by limiting the size of the development. Delbrook residents favoured non-market housing when the district’s previous council contemplated selling the site, he said.
Little assured Gill no specific result had been determined. The mayor added that some neighbourhood residents favoured a two- or three-storey project.
Muri also addressed the notion of a four-storey building.
“I think we should let the Delbrook community and the surrounding community determine that through this consultation,” Muri said.
Noting the dearth of district land and the need for social housing, Bond suggested it would be a mistake to begin community consultation without a “very firm commitment” to a specific number of homes.
District workshops found “overall general support” for community services including adult day care, child care and seniors’ respite care on the site, according to a staff report.
District staff are set to fine tune the approved but pliant radius.
The neighbourhood-centric consultation is a contrast to the 2015-16 district-wide Delbrook Dialogue, which featured input from “several hundred” residents, the majority of whom favoured a mix of affordable housing funded by senior levels of government as well as seniors care, a child care facility and a park. Including technical background work, the Delbrook Dialogue cost approximately $137,000.
The next public engagement process is tentatively slated to be held through May and June at an estimated cost of $15,000. A further public hearing process would be necessary prior to any official rezoning on the site.
In a 5-2 vote held last November, council rejected an 80-unit, six storey below market rental project along with a seniors’ respite centre on the site, which is currently a parking lot. The district was slated to provide the land and waive development fees while non-profit Catalyst Community Developments Society paid capital costs.