The District of North Vancouver council approved one 27-unit townhouse development on Mt. Seymour Parkway but rejected a similar 28-unit project next door in two split votes that highlighted ongoing differences about how to deal with growth in the municipality.
On Monday, council gave final approvals to a rezoning bylaw that will allow a developer to build 27 townhouses - including 11 two-bedroom units and 16 three-bedroom units - as part of a three-storey four-building project on four existing lots at the corner of Mt. Seymour Parkway and Parkgate Avenue from 3468 to 3490 Mt. Seymour Parkway.
Prior to giving the project second and third readings, councillors debated its merits at a council meeting Sept. 17.
Couns. Lisa Muri, Doug MacKay-Dunn and Jim Hanson argued against the project, saying the local community didn’t support it.
“I believe the density and design is not in keeping with the area,” said Muri.
On the other side of the argument were Couns. Mathew Bond, Roger Bassam and Robin Hicks, who said the townhouses are desperately needed. “Only the extremely wealthy will be able to live here,” unless the district embraces change, said Bond.
“There’s a huge demand for townhomes in this community,” said Bassam. “This will absolutely be welcomed by those looking for a more affordable form of housing.”
Muri said the project won’t provide affordable housing, adding some of the townhouses will likely sell for $1 million. “They’re luxury townhouses,” she said.
Hicks said some factors are beyond council’s control. “We can’t just wave a magic wand and make housing more affordable,” he said. Hicks said if council doesn’t support rezoning, “we’ll still get development, but in the form of expensive single family homes.”
Muri and Bond also sparred on how many apartments and townhouses have been approved east of Riverside in recent years.
According to a staff report, there have been 266 new apartment and townhouse units approved for the area east of Riverside Drive since the OCP was adopted in June 2011, which includes 143 units of seniors rental housing. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation has also approved 591 condos and townhouses on their Raven Woods lands in that area.
“The proposal is intended to provide housing to meet the needs of downsizers, the missing middle and families,” according to a staff report.
Mayor Richard Walton said more density is needed along the Seymour corridor to get transportation improvements.
The development passed second and third readings in a 4-3 vote, with Bond, Hicks, Bassam and Walton in favour and Muri, Hanson and MacKay-Dunn opposed.
As part of the approval, the developer is paying almost $534,000 to the municipality as a community amenity contribution to be used for amenities like parks, recreation or affordable housing. The strata that will govern the development is also prohibited from restricting rentals in the building, with the exception of short-term rentals.
In a second vote, council turned down a neighbouring project for 29 townhouse units on the adjacent lots between 3428 and 3464 Mt. Seymour Parkway with many of the same arguments being made.
Muri said the project was too much of a “looming presence” close to the neighbours, while Bassam said, “I don’t think this is a super imposing structure.”
On a first vote, Sept. 17, Walton cast the deciding vote against the project saying he had concerns about the end units of the project being too close to neighbours.
Walton brought the project back for second consideration at the Oct. 1 meeting after developers changed it to eliminate a third story on the end units and remove a rooftop patio overlooking neighbouring properties, bringing the project down to 28 units.
Walton said he would now support the project, but Bond said he wouldn’t, because in his opinion the revised plan was not as good as the original proposal. He urged the developer to bring another project forward in the future, adding that perhaps a four or six-storey rental building makes more sense.
The development was rejected in a 3-3 tie vote. MacKay-Dunn was absent for the Oct. 1 vote.