Vancouver architect Michael Geller addresses a group of residents Sunday looking for small-scale, low-impact density options in their Lower Capilano neighbourhood. Photograph by: Kevin Hill, NEWS photo
Residents hope to control density
Lions Gate's Fullerton area open to low-rise, multi-family options
By Tessa Holloway, North Shore NewsSeptember 1, 2010
A group of residents near Capilano Road are breaking ranks with their community association to call for more housing options -- and density -- in their neighbourhood.
The residents south of Fullerton Avenue organized a community meeting on Sunday with Vancouver architect Michael Geller and the District of North Vancouver to talk about ideas for backyard suites, duplexes, townhouses and other options in the area south of Fullerton Avenue off of Capilano Road.
Lead organizer Doug Curran said change and density are likely coming to the area, and it's better that residents guide the process and keep the low-rise character of the neighbourhood intact, while continuing to oppose highrise towers.
"What we're looking at is a redesignation of the area that would allow people (to build) ground-oriented, multi-family development," he said.
He said that could allow for more affordable homes on smaller lots that would be easier for seniors and young families, adding that the large lots and old homes currently in the neighbourhood are hard for long-time residents to keep up as they grow old.
He's also worried the area's old homes will be bought out by developers, leaving area residents with little say in their neighbourhood. "We're not interested in selling properties for highrise developments or larger developments. What we're looking for is something for a very modest increase in density."
The neighbourhood is also home to a large site, a former athletic club, owned by Larco, a North Shore development company that hopes to redevelop the site as high-density housing, which has previously been strongly opposed by the neighbourhood.
Bernice Carmichael is one of those people who is wondering whether she will be able to stay in her home of 51 years.
"I'm 80 years old almost, and our lot is large," she said. "We have a large back garden and a large lawn at the front, and we're getting to the stage now where we have to have someone help us with it."
She said she wants to know what options there are to split the property or have a rental on the lot, which could help her stay in the neighbourhood where she raised her kids.
"Most people who live here want to stay here," she said.
The meeting on Sunday attracted about 30 people and Curran said he's received a lot of support from neighbours, which prompted the neighbourhood to form the informal South of Fullerton Area Residents group to facilitate the discussion. The discussion is still in its early stages, he said.
Cathy Adams, president of the existing Lions Gate Neighbourhood Association, which covers a much larger area, said she's worried any increased density in the existing residential areas will make a bad situation worse for traffic congestion.
As well, she said there aren't enough services, such as parks or community centres, to handle increased density.
"There's going to be a lot more happening down in this corner of North Vancouver over the next five to 10 years, so to rezone a lot more properties without having that information and without seeing the impact, it's concerning," she said.
Susan Haid, manager of sustainable community development at the District of North Vancouver, said those sorts of things will be taken into account, and could be improved by new development.
District staff will be conducting a design charette on the neighbourhood with resident input to create three plans for the area, which residents will then give feedback on, starting Sept. 14.
Lower Capilano is one of four areas of the district going under the magnifying glass as part of the planning for a new Official Community Plan, including Maplewood, Lower Lynn and Lynn Valley.
"It can lead to some real opportunities in terms of improved transit and also some local road network improvements and trail connection and pedestrian improvements," said Haid, speaking about the design charette process.
She recognized current zoning is heavily restrictive in terms of what housing types are available, and said that the district will incorporate what they hear from residents into the new OCP. The first draft is due out this fall.
For more information on the charette and chances for public input go to identity.dnv.org.