North Van District sends Seymour project to public hearing

For the first time since the 2018 municipal election, District of North Vancouver residents will have their say on a residential redevelopment proposal.

District council voted 5-2 Monday night to hold a public hearing for Anthem Properties’ proposal to build 341 units of housing and a coffee shop on a 6.28-acre vacant lot on Mount Seymour Parkway and Lytton Street.

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Of those units, 55 would be market rentals, 33 would be rentals offered at 15 to 25 per cent below CMHC median rates for the municipality and run by Hollyburn Family Services Society, 25 would be on a rent-to-own model for first-time buyers and one townhouse unit would be built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

The site at 904-944 Lytton St. was previously home to 141 townhouse units built in 1969 but, when the complex reached the end of its useful life, owners negotiated to sell the property to Anthem. The townhouses were demolished in 2019.

With its affordable housing options, Coun. Jordan Back said the proposal checks a lot of boxes for council.

“I think one of the best features is that no one will be demovicted as a result of this development. In fact, it’s the previous owners that benefited from selling,” he said.

It was direct lobbying from Coun. Megan Curren that led the developer to promise the buildings would not use any fossil fuels. But, she warned, the 576 parking spaces included in the plan would have to be pared down if she was to support it after a public hearing.

“That level of parking is not supportable, and it’s not the ideal location, but I’m kind of realizing that there isn’t going to be something that’s just perfect,” she said.

Coun. Mathew Bond said going from an older complex of townhouses to six storeys was “natural evolution of multi-family housing on the North Shore.”

Mayor Mike Little said any proposal for the site wouldn’t measure up to the nostalgic memories he has of playing with neighbourhood kids in the old Seymour Estates courtyard.

“But I understand that we cannot necessarily replicate in 2020 dollars on that kind of scale what was already there,” he said. “I do think that there are enough benefits from this project that I want the community to have a very serious look at it in the public hearing process.”

Coun. Jim Hanson rattled off a number of features he liked about the project, including the rent-to-own, rental and non-market units, but voted against getting any further public input on it.

“As a representative of the Seymour community as a whole, I do not believe that the Seymour community supports this level of density at this location,” he said.

Coun. Lisa Muri listed a series of grievances with the project, including traffic mixing with hundreds of kids walking to Windsor Secondary, the fact that there were too many market units and that the rent-to-own units would inevitably become strata.

“You won’t be able to deal with my concerns,” she said.

Coun. Betty Forbes said she too had concerns about traffic but wanted to hear what the public had to say.

Little cautioned the developer that council’s support to send it to a public hearing was tepid.

“So, you got your work cut out in the public hearings and future community engagements,” he said.

It is the first privately owned housing project to make it past first reading from this council.

All 12 members of the public who came to council chambers or signed up to speak online were in favour of the rezoning.

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