Tantalus Gardens a no, Hewitt House a go, West Van council says

West Vancouver council has rejected an infill housing proposal that was deeply unpopular with its Horseshoe Bay neighbours, but given the OK for a heritage project in West Bay, much to the chagrin of those living nearby.

QUMA Properties’ proposal for Tantalus Gardens – six small single-family homes and four duplexes on four lots and the shuttered St. Monica’s Church site – went down to a 4-2 defeat Monday night.

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The project was panned by its nearest neighbours at the public hearing held Oct. 8 over its density, disruption to the neighbourhood, lack of affordability and the loss of public assembly zoning at the vacant church property.

“It seemed to be disproportionate to what is arguably a relatively modestly project,” said Coun. Peter Lambur. “But … I’ve observed this proposal has unearthed an extraordinary outpouring of local sentiment, regarding in particular the proposed loss of community use space on the church site.”

At the very least, the vote should be deferred until the completion of the Horseshoe Bay local area plan, sometime in 2020, Lambur added.

“For me, we are no closer to what I could consider as something approaching an optimal solution for the development of the site without alternatives and absent the necessary context a completed local area plan would provide,” he said.

Only Coun. Craig Cameron and Mayor Mary-Ann Booth disagreed.

Exasperated, Booth reminded her fellow council members they had just voted unanimously an hour earlier to pursue climate action by building smaller, more efficient, more affordable homes.

“This is the number 1 thing we can do in our control to affect greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, warning that wouldn’t be possible if they said no to every new housing proposal. “I’ve got news. There is no magical place in West Vancouver – somewhere else where it’s going to be better. There isn’t. I’ve been at this for 14 years.”

A heritage revitalization project to restore and protect the 1924 Hewitt House at 3321 Radcliffe Ave. in exchange for a subdivision and new 1,500-square-foot home on the lot appeared to be on its way to a similar fate with votes falling along similar lines.

Coun. Soprovich echoed the concerns of the neighbours before casting his vote.

“Well, we all like heritage but I look at that site, which is rather small, and see a lot of building on it. It doesn’t appeal to me,” he said.

But Cameron challenged his council members to live up to their campaign promise of introducing more housing options to West Vancouver.

“I don’t know how people can say with a straight face they support housing diversity and then literally never vote for one unit of additional housing. It just boggles the mind,” he said.

Coun. Marcus Wong said he resented Cameron’s rhetoric, trying to embarrass fellow council members, but ultimately voted in favour of the project.

“I think there are lot of great things about it. A lot of questionable things about it,” he said, noting he had concerns about parking and the size of the new home. “But at the same time, I think the heritage building has a lot of value in itself. It’s a very beautiful building.”


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