Mark Twain advised to “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” But, as we have all been reminded lately, good public discourse must always be based on factual facts, not the alternative variety. Unfortunately, Mayor Michael Smith spun a story in his recent “unplugged” speech before the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce (reference Jeremy Shepherd’s story, March 12).
To set the record straight, there is no moratorium on new construction in West Vancouver. In fact, Council voted to defer only those projects that are not consistent with the existing official community plan and that do not deliver “significant social benefit” to the community.
Put otherwise, projects complying with the existing OCP and projects that don’t comply but will address a pressing community need can proceed as usual. Moreover, projects will only be deferred until the relevant local area plan is approved. The Marine Drive local area plan will be decided this spring, paving the way for three substantial projects. At council’s direction, the Ambleside local area plan will be decided by May 2018. Delays from the policy will be minimal and limited.
The fact is there has been considerable “reinvigoration” in West Vancouver over the past few years. Last year, council approved the Sewell’s project, a game changer for Horseshoe Bay. We approved the first dedicated rental buildings in the district in over 40 years. Maison Senior Living recently added more than 100 memory care and assisted living beds on Taylor Way. And the Grosvenor development is rising over Ambleside day by day.
District staff proposed the recent policy to council so they could focus their limited resources on reviewing the OCP. The planning department simply can’t spend countless hours dealing with individual “spot” rezoning applications while simultaneously focussing on the big picture.
Much has been written lately regarding the pace and nature of development on the North Shore. While we all agree that there is a pressing need for appropriate and (more) affordable housing, most would also agree that new development should proceed in a deliberate, considered and planned fashion. Cumulative impacts on transportation, municipal services and amenities and neighbourhood character must be studied and addressed.
Deferring applications for significant rezoning also respects the public process. An OCP is a means of expressing the community’s vision of itself. Rezoning individual properties while the community is undertaking a comprehensive review of the future plan for the same area makes a mockery of the engagement process.
We are in a period of considerable, inevitable change. The best way to navigate that change is for developers, community groups, individual residents and the district to work together to chart an acceptable path forward. We all have a voice and stake in the future of our community. This isn’t a debate about any development or no development but rather a search for a balance. Alternative facts and polarizing rhetoric don’t assist in that task.
Craig Cameron, District of West Vancouver councillor
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