West Vancouver punts vote on tower at Earls site

West Vancouver council has shunted a vote on a major tower application for Marine Drive.

Council was set to vote on first reading of a rezoning that would have allowed Darwin Properties to build a 26-storey tower and four townhouses at 303 Marine Dr. – the easternmost part of West Vancouver where an Earls restaurant closed on Saturday.

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The proposal includes 133 units, 42 of which would be purpose-built rental apartments as well as 201 parking spaces and storage for 209 bicycles.

In exchange, the developer would put up just more than $7.3 million in community amenity contributions, which would be spent on things like public art and trail connections including a bridge over the Capilano River.

Darwin president Oliver Webbe told council he believed the units would likely sell in the $1,000 per square foot range and the rental units would likely lease at about $3 per square foot.

The project conforms with the official community plan and had already once been withdrawn and revised after council created a specific local area plan for the Marine Drive corridor. Darwin designed the tower to fit in with the District of North Vancouver’s Lions Gate neighbourhood towers now rising out of the ground.

The majority on council agreed it was a “good” project – but they weren’t shy about airing their grievances with various components of the proposal they felt were keeping it from becoming a great project. Among them: that there were no units reserved for subsidized, supportive housing for adults with disabilities, that there were too many parking spaces, which would negate the desired effect of getting residents to rely more on transit and walking, that the tower lacked smaller studio apartments and lock-off suites, or that the units would be too expensive to house the young families West Vancouver is trying to keep.

Coun. Craig Cameron reasoned that it would be better to temporarily shelve the project to see if any of those grievances could be resolved rather than vote it through to a public hearing and be rejected by council.

Cameron’s motion passed with the support of everyone on council except Mayor Mike Smith, who chastised his council for dithering on a popular project and failing to address the housing crisis.

Council will now meet to compile a wish list of amenities they’d like to see included in the project before asking staff to renegotiate with Darwin.

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