Controversial Horseshoe Bay project put on hold

West Vancouver council has shelved plans for a controversial housing development in Horseshoe Bay.

QUMA Properties is proposing to build Tantalus Gardens – six small single-family homes and eight duplexes over one parkade between Wellington and Nelson avenues at Rosebery Avenue. The project encompasses four lots, including the site of St. Monica’s Anglican Church, which the parish members and the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster closed in 2013.

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Dozens of nearby residents took their turn at the mic over two hours during the public input period to rattle off a litany of grievances they have with the project. Among them: That it would be too dense for the single-family neighbourhood and bring traffic and parking concerns, that it would be unsuitable for seniors or people with children, that the area isn’t walkable enough, that the new units would be unaffordable and that it would result in too many trees being lost. Mostly though, they lamented the potential loss of the public assembly zoning where the church stands as it is still used by some community groups.

“If we take it out of the equation, we cannot bring it back. This development will do exactly that,” said Jonathan Walker, who lives across the street. “I’ve lived there for a long time. I love this neighbourhood and I’m not objecting to this purely on the basis of NIMBYism. I know that that’s a popular term these days. I worry about the loss of community.”

Most residents who didn’t ask council to reject the proposal outright asked that it be included in the ongoing Horseshoe Bay local area plan, which will become part of the official community plan. Those residents got their wish, somewhat.

Coun. Craig Cameron said it wasn’t the right time or place for the project to advance, and moved that it be deferred until “at least the end of Horseshoe Bay local area plan visioning process” and that the local area plan boundaries be reviewed and confirmed with consideration of extending them to include the Tantalus Gardens site. The motion passed unanimously, although planning director Jim Bailey warned it may complicate the process as a whole.

“It makes it very difficult for our staff to go in and have a meaningful dialogue with the community with something like this hanging over them,” he said.

While the proposal may sit on the shelf at least until the end of the summer, several members of council expressed that they didn’t see it as dire as the neighbours did, including Cameron who said he would not be opposed to living across the street from a similar development.

“I very much do support housing diversity in this community. We need it. It’s in our OCP. We can’t even approach solving the affordability problem if we don’t build more units on the same amount of land,” he said. “I don’t agree with the notion that somehow increasing anything from single-family is destroying the neighbourhood. I think that’s just not true.”

And Mayor Mary-Ann Booth made it clear the district has no intention of buying the church property to ensure it remains available for public use.

Coun. Bill Soprovich expressed faith in the planning process.

“There’s always change and it’s inevitable but Horseshoe Bay now is a jewel. It’s always been a jewel, really. It deserves the best,” he said.

Coun. Nora Gambioli recused herself from the entire discussion after disclosing that she owns property near the site.

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