A proposal to build a collection of duplexes and coach houses on three lots in the 2000-block of Esquimalt Avenue in West Vancouver will move to the public for consideration next month.
Council first considered the Esquimalt Drive lots for development in 2005, but defeated a proposal in 2006 because of the challenges in "introducing new housing types in established single-family neighbourhoods." Five years later, district councillors have decided unanimously to send the alternate-housing proposal to a public hearing, scheduled for May 16 at municipal hall.
"This is housing that's been asked for. . . . We know that it's needed. Really, it's time that we addressed this," Coun. Shannon Walker said at an April 18 council meeting.
The proposal, dubbed Hollyburn Mews, calls for nine housing units built on three lots in the 2000-block of Esquimalt Avenue -- six duplex units facing Esquimalt and three detached coach houses facing the rear lane -- all built at 2031, 2046 and 2063 Esquimalt Avenue.
Vancouver-based architecture firm Geller Properties Inc. is stickhandling the revamped proposal since taking over the development plans after the initial 2005 application and buying the three lots in August 2010.
The proposal requires a rezoning of the three lots, each currently occupied by an older rental house, and an OCP amendment for the block. The developer is seeking an increase in the lots' permitted density from 0.35 to 0.61 floor-space ratio.
In his presentation to council, Michael Geller of Geller Properties Inc. said the development would provide West Vancouver's empty nesters and aging residents with smaller, more age-friendly housing options. He described the units as cottage-like units with porches, lush gardens, and interiors equipped to meet seniors' needs.
"I think these are things that people of West Vancouver would be looking for in this location," Geller said. "Hopefully we'll meet the aspiration that I know many people hope to achieve in the new type of housing."
Coun. Bill Soprovich questioned the affordability of the duplexes and coach houses in Geller's proposal.
Geller agreed that the units will not qualify as "affordable" per se, but said he hopes to achieve "relative affordability" in his project given the cost of land and development in West Vancouver.
According to the district's senior community planner Stephen Mikicich, the initial proposal has changed to reflect public concerns since the "enhanced consultation process" conducted in 2010. He said the design changes include smaller coach houses, improved landscaping, a focus on the character of the rear land environment, and the addition of three on-site parking spaces.
In a report to council, Mikicich also said "the proposal supports the OCP vision of a sustainable community through improved housing choice, reduced auto dependency, providing more housing in proximity to retail services and community amenities, and sustainable building and landscape features."
West Vancouver's Gary Hiscox and three other residents spoke in support of the proposal.
"These alternatives provide aging families like ours the opportunity to continue to live in an environment to which we have become accustomed," said Hiscox, who lives on 16th Street.
"Aging residents and young adults are not well served by the present stock of housing in West Vancouver," Haywood Avenue resident Lynn Broman added.
But for Gordon Ward-Hall of Fulton Avenue, who spoke on behalf of the Ambleside-Dundarave Ratepayers' Association, the proposed development is too much, too soon. He cited the district's OCP, which calls for an analysis of alternative housing needs in the district on a site-specific basis and states that OCP amendments "should apply in limited circumstances" in single-family areas.
"The present proposal for Esquimalt is a complete reversal of this policy," Ward-Hall said. "This is certainly not a gradual introduction of multi-family units into a single-family neighbourhood."
A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 16 at 7 p.m. in West Vancouver council chambers.
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