West Vancouver council, like many commuters, keeps getting stuck at the corner of Taylor Way and Marine Drive.
Council held its public hearing for a proposal for two mixed-use towers at the former White Spot site at Park Royal Monday night but put off a vote on the project to attempt some last-minute renegotiations with the developer.
Larco’s proposal is for 203 residential units in 11- and 14-storey towers as well as 29,000 square feet of commercial space and a child-care facility. Initially, the plans were for one-third of the homes to be rental but the developer arrived at Monday’s public hearing with an offer of another 51 units to be rented out for a period of 20 years. Of the rental units, 11 would be owned by the district and rented out at below-market rates. If approved, the single project would increase the supply of purpose-built rental units in the municipality by three per cent. Current West Vancouver residents and employees would be given first opportunity to rent the units, which the developer estimates will lease for between $3 and $4 per square foot.
Those supporting those project at the three-and-a-half hour public hearing outnumbered those opposed by about two to one.
For opponents of the project, there were three recurring themes in their comments: traffic, congestion and gridlock. Some members of the packed gallery responded with indignation and disbelief when district staff showed traffic data from the province indicating vehicle trips across the Lions Gate Bridge had actually gone down by 2.9 per cent in the last 10 years. Larco’s traffic consultant estimated the project would add about 185 car trips per hour at the peak afternoon rush.
Martha Barazza said she spent most of the last 25 years commuting downtown and couldn’t believe council was considering adding more drivers to the road.
“I can tell you that now it takes an hour to cross the bridge, which it didn’t in those days. Whoever says there were less cars crossing ... obviously has their numbers somehow scrambled,” she said. “I think it’s time that we put a moratorium on building until they can solve the traffic problem, which is absolutely a nightmare.”
Proponents, however, praised the proposal for pretty much the exact opposite reason: With less than one parking spot per unit, frequent transit at the doorstep including B-Line service coming in 2019, and a hub for shopping and restaurants in walking distance, it would be an opportunity for West Vancouverites to live practically car free.
“This is the first development in West Vancouver designed to reduce dependency on cars,” said Dundarave resident Michael Markwick. “This is the first time in the history of our community that we’re actually building for the future.”
Frida Pagani agreed.
“We must have higher density on transportation corridors in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
“We need more environmentally friendly housing options and development that includes more rental units, more supportive housing for seniors and people with disabilities, better accessibility to transit and to walking and cycling trails, and better walkability within proximity to shopping, services, parks, social and recreational activities and amenities such as child care, with vibrant public spaces and community meeting space. 752 Marine Dr. will meet these needs.”
The project conforms with the official community plan and has already once been withdrawn and revised after council created a specific local area plan for the Marine Drive corridor.
Council has put off the vote on the project until May 14, giving staff to time meet again with Larco staff to see if they would consider further tweaks to the number of rental units and parking spaces to address individual council members’ concerns. Council opted not to formally close the public hearing, meaning council members can still accept feedback on the project.