Who gets Onni amenity?

City defers childcare, housing operator choice

THE question over who should get first dibs on roughly $10 million in affordable housing and childcare space the City of North Vancouver accrued through density bonusing on Onni's Safeway site project is up for debate.

Council was prepared to vote Monday night on a motion to put out a call for expressions of interest from the non-profit sector to run the community assets, but a deep schism at the council table quickly emerged.

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The city granted Onni another 82,000 square feet of condo space in exchange for the development including 6,100 square feet of childcare space and 10,000 square feet of affordable housing.

Rather than run the housing and childcare itself, the understanding was that city would seek out qualified non-profit groups to administer the services.

Dozens of members of the MyOwnSpace Housing Society, a group of parents lobbying

for living space for adult children with disabilities who will eventually no longer have their parents to care for them, came out to speak in favour of the Onni proposal at two public hearings, though staff emphasized throughout the process that no organization had been selected to take on the space and that it would be decided at a later date.

That was enough for some members of council. "Whether or not it's done in terms of something that comes forward in some written way, I think everybody around this table knows that MyOwnSpace Housing has done the heavy lifting around the affordable housing component at the Onni project. By my math, there's a sense of fairness that goes with that," said Coun. Craig Keating, noting that the city had a history of handing over affordable housing space directly to non-profits that included themselves in the public process in the past.

The same went for handing over the childcare space to be run by North Shore Neighbourhood House, Keating said.

Keating went on to say he would be willing to put it to a vote that night, behind closed doors in an in-camera session of council, if needed.

But that was a "distressing" notion for another faction of council.

"I am quite convinced the way in which $10 million out of $20 million of potentially public value gets distributed to private uses should be subject to a public process - an open and transparent process with participation from all qualifying and interested parties," said Coun. Guy Heywood. "If the city is going to give this money away, it should at least be careful and transparent and monitored,"

Failing to do that, Heywood added, the city would be opening itself up to accusations the next time it "pleads poverty" while trying to build or replace city infrastructure.

With council split on which way to proceed, members elected to defer the vote until all seven council members were present, as Coun. Rod Clark was not at Monday's meeting.

Council is not expected to have all seven members in attendance until the July 15 meeting. If council chooses the expression of interest route, the city will evaluate pitches for the space and make a decision in the fall.

Onni is expected to file for its building permit soon, according to city staff.

brichter@nsnews.com

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