Friday, June 10, 2011

North Shore Newspaper Accounts of Hollyburn Mews Decision

WV council approves divisive townhouse project
By Tessa Holloway, North Shore News June 10, 2011 4:02 AM

The official community plan and zoning bylaw amendments for the Hollyburn Mews project passed second and third reading at West Vancouver council Monday night following the second day of a long and divisive public hearing process.

About 20 more speakers addressed council on Monday on top of the more than 150 submissions made to council prior to that meeting, with a split almost right down the middle between those who support the rezoning of three lots to include three duplexes and laneway houses and those who are adamantly opposed.

Council split much the same way as speakers that evening, with Couns. Shannon Walker, Trish Panz, Michael Evison and Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones supporting the project and Couns. Bill Soprovich, Michael Smith and Michael Lewis voting to slam the brakes.

The OCP amendment has been altered to cover the entire block in response to concerns the proposal constituted spot rezoning, and several neighbours of the existing site at 2031-2091 Esquimalt Ave. have expressed interest in laneway houses on their properties. The amendment also includes special reference to neighbourhood character, and any new project would require council approval.

"I understand the trepidation of the neighbours but I think this is a good solution," said Walker. "It allows council and the design committee to participate in the design to ensure the form and character of the houses that are presented fit in the neighbourhood, but it will also give us time to contemplate how this current project, if passed, fits into the neighbourhood."

Councillors opposed to the project said there was too much public angst about the rezoning to go ahead, and that any change to a single-family neighbourhood should have full support of area residents.

Evison said the development process was poorly planned and that the district should lead a process that will start smaller and assuage residents' concerns.

"There's something wrong with our process. This process doesn't work," said Lewis. "This has turned out to be the most divisive thing I've seen in my community in my term on council, and I'm really concerned about that. So that tells me something's not working here."

Many of the speakers, including supporters and detractors, came from far outside the neighbourhood affected. Several people said they wanted to see more projects like this in the district, with many seniors describing their desire for smaller homes with modest yards close to transit and amenities. Others, including a letter written by British Properties resident and businessman Jim Pattison, said they were afraid this project would be replicated elsewhere.

That's why Kathleen Glynn Morris showed up. Though she lives much farther west on Marine Drive, she said she was concerned about the erosion of single-family neighbourhoods.

"If people buy a single-family home in a single-family neighbourhood, then I don't think that it's fair after the fact to change the atmosphere of that community," she said. "Communities are what make this district."

Walker didn't buy that.

"I don't think developers are going to be banging on our door because if they look at the process, they're not going to want to come here," she said, noting how many meetings and changes have occurred to the project since it was first proposed as townhouses in 2006.

Others, including Evison and several speakers, noted the towers located a few blocks away and the location near Marine Drive.

Basil Davis lives in the affected neighbourhood and said there was no better location in the district.

"If this is passed over we might as well totally forget it and accept the fact that we're going to have nothing but monster houses, and we'll just have to put up with it," he said, one of three homeowners who live in the neighbourhood who spoke in support Monday.

Still, others in the neighbourhood wrote in opposition or signed a survey in opposition organized by Fulton Avenue resident Christine Cassidy, who also campaigned against the district's own laneway housing pilot project. When she spoke, her voice cracked with emotion.

"We don't need it, we don't want it," she said.

The proponent, Michael Geller, a Vancouver-based architect and developer, spoke to council and assured residents the project will look exactly like the images presented, and said he would work with staff to add two visitor parking spaces following concerns about cars. He said construction could begin in August, pending final approval of the bylaw and the granting of the necessary permits.

The project includes a community amenity contribution of $116,000.

While he admitted to being nervous as councillors took sides and residents spoke in opposition, he said he expected many would change their mind once they saw the project.

"This has happened many, many times over the years. Often afterwards people find they support it and like it," he said following the meeting.

© Copyright (c) North Shore News

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Score one for infill housing in West Van
By Trevor Lautens, Special To North Shore News June 10, 2011 4:02 AM

Morality Officer Lou Kingerley of the Hamilton Police Service once asked a sad little waif who came to his professional attention: "Are you pregnant?"

She shyly whispered: "Well, I'm just a little bit pregnant."

West Vancouver on Monday became just a little bit pregnant with infill housing -- its enthusiasts/apologists Couns. Michael Evison, Trish Panz, Shannon Walker and Stanley Cup-level tiebreaker Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones in earnest denial that it would set a precedent, but would help the needy West Vancouver old folks (ha), and would contribute to saving the environment, and town hall's watchdogs would keep keen eye and tooth monitoring the effect that Michael Geller's stuffing nine homes into three Fulton Avenue lots will have on neighbourhoods, near or far.

On the Geller plan, Bill Soprovich, oldest councillor in the world or at least in the only important part, West Van, reminisced about "the little magic things of living" in West Van. Hey, Sop, you've just handed the ad guys a perfect sales line, like for paradisical sunny islands marketed as unspoiled to eager spoilers!

Panz favoured "moving forward." Guaranteed to paralyze most brains.

Also supporting Geller, Evison rejected claims of violation to the official community plan, declaring that clause H3 "allows something a little bit different."

Walker, whom I'd peg as a possible future mayoral candidate and who has the calm assurance helped by being the daughter of Chuck, whose Walker Place on Bellevue was assessed last year at $16 million, disbelieves that "the neighbourhood is under siege." She also wittily turned aside the view that developers would be heartened by Geller's successful application: "If (they) see the difficulties they won't be encouraged."

Opposed to the little-bit-pregnant team backing Geller's project were Couns. Soprovich, Michael Lewis and Michael Smith, all with long private business experience and unlikely candidates for closet socialism, and who, Constant Reader may well have guessed, this observer likens to white knights protecting the fair maiden's virtue.

Lewis: Odd, the people in favour "don't live in the neighbourhood. . . . The interests of the people in the immediate neighbourhood trump that of a real estate developer." Or should.

Smith: "We have failed in the fact that this community is divided. . . . We have to seek the right path, and this isn't it. ... The process (has been) driven not by council, but by a developer." He dissented, "reluctantly."

Citizen speakers at this second act of the public hearing were an interesting study. Maggie Pappas submitted that Geller's units would be "just what I want," repeating "affordable" or "affordability" several times. Down-sizers who think such small homes are affordable should check what they give up against what they get. After the dust has settled on the sales, legal, moving and utility re-connection costs, prepare for shock.

Another woman, frighteningly modern, in a household of three, repeatedly and proudly invoked these units' attraction for "The New Single Family" (and she pronounced the capitals).

George Pajari cited "inconsistencies" in two reports from the same consultant just two weeks apart, and urged another postponement of the public meeting until staff produced a substantial, written report.

A fascinating deposition: Opposed. The proposal pits neighbour against neighbour. Has a negative impact on West Van's character. Signed, Jim Pattison. Yup, that Jim Pattison, West Van's most famous and respected multi-billionaire.

But all was for nought -- a charade from the start, in my view. With councillors divided 3-3, Mayor Goldsmith-Jones, chief executive officer whose vote Geller would have good reason to bank on, let his ambitions slide in as easily as Roberto Luongo waves in the puck on one of his bad nights.
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If land re-zoning is allowed for the Hollyburn Mews proposal – which includes a duplex and a coach house on each of three lots – then the value of the land will increase. But by how much?
Laneway housing project splits West Van residents

By Rebecca Aldous - North Shore OutlookPublished: June 08, 2011 12:00 PM Updated: June 08, 2011 2:22 PM
After five years’ worth of planning, two packed meetings and 153 letters to the municipality, West Vancouver council has paved the way for an infill housing development.
The Hollyburn Mews proposal slates a nine-unit development on three lots in the 2000-block of Esquimalt Avenue — with a duplex and a carriage house on each property.
To allow for the additional housing in the single-family neighbourhood, the project required an Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment and rezoning of the three parcels. Monday night, council granted them a third reading.
“I am going to support this and I don’t expect this to be easy to support,” Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones said after a slew of supporters and opponents addressed council.
Proponents argued the need for alternative housing to keep the young and old in West Van; opposition warned the same amendment that allows this project could open the door to spot-zoning throughout single-family neighbourhoods.

The OCP was created to ensure a sense of predictability and restrict densification, said Coun. Bill Soprovich, who along with Coun. Michael Smith and Coun. Michael Lewis voted against the OCP amendment and rezoning.

“We are on a slippery slope,” Soprovich said, adding the project sets a precedent.
The majority of people are supportive of alternative housing, but West Van needs to have a proper process in place for such projects, Smith said, noting there is pressure on Ambleside and Dundarave for these types of developments.
Alternative housing projects aren’t going to pop up over night, Coun. Shannon Walker argued. Yes, Hollyburn Mews is a small step toward a more diverse housing range, but it has taken a long time for the proposal to move forward, she said, noting its been five years since the original draft. Although the entire block is now designated for denser housing, only the project’s three lots have received the rezoning required for carriage homes, she said. “I don’t think the neighbourhood is under siege.”

Last month, what caused a roadblock for Hollyburn Mews were questions regarding the project’s estimated dollar increase as a result of the rezoning. The rezoning would allow for more units on the lots than the original designation, essentially increasing the value of the properties. This process is called uplift, of which three quarters of the new value is paid to the municipality as a community amenity.

In three separate reports, dating back to February 2010, three different values were given as an appropriate uplift — $65,000, $595,000 and $155,000. The vast range created a stir, with Smith and Soprovich adjourning May’s public hearing to allow councillors the opportunity to review the variance.

In its latest report, the municipality indicated $155,000 as the most appropriate uplift. Hollyburn Mews’ proponent, Vancouver-based architect Michael Geller, has since made a voluntary community amenity contribution of $116,000, which meets the district’s policy target of 75 per cent of the uplift.

Geller will also dish out $55,185 for district infrastructure and give $7,800 to Metro Vancouver, said Bob Sokol, director of planning, lands and permits. Hollyburn Mews will contribute a net increase in property tax of $3,700, he added.
Addressing council, Geller said these lots are unique. They are close to the community and seniors’ centre, which makes them suitable for such a development, he noted.

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