|West Vancouver Councillor Nora Gambioli with just some of the hundreds of letters written in opposition (and support) for a new Development Permit Application in Dundarave|
"It was a good project and should have been easier to pass. Sigh."
These are the words of Councillor Craig Cameron, who along with Councillors Peter Lambur, Marcus Wong, Sharon Thompson, Nora Gambioli and Mayor Mary Ann Booth all voted in favour of the DP Application and requested height variance for a new 3-storey development in the southwest quadrant of Dundarave Village.
The variance was required since the site has a 13-to-15-foot slope from Marine Drive to Dundarave Lane. As a result, building height is measured from the 'average grade' which was determined to be 5'-6" below Marine Drive. Given the change in elevation, the development has five levels along the lane; however, the first commercial level is depressed approximately four feet to minimize the overall height.
Only longstanding Councillor Bill Soprovich voted against the project. Although he had previously told me he was impressed with the design, he expressed reservations about the massing and disruption that would be caused by construction, amongst other things. As a result, the vote was not unanimous, as I had hoped going into the meeting.
I first became involved with this DP Application in October 2021, shortly after the District's Design Review Committee refused to support a proposal prepared over the previous two years. My Furry Creek client passed on my name to the developer, Brimming Development, a Surrey based firm that has undertaken other projects in the Lower Mainland and Seattle. However, this was their first project in West Vancouver, which over the years has earned a reputation as BC's most difficult municipality in which to get development approvals.
This was my sixth West Vancouver project. I have often joked that I like to undertake projects in West Van since, if I can get approval there, I can get approvals anywhere the world!
This certainly was the case for Hollyburn Mews, my first West Van development project that met fierce opposition. Hundreds of angry letters and speakers urged Council to reject a proposal for...are you ready...nine 2-storey duplexes and coach houses one block off Marine Drive, across from a church, and next to the West Van Recreation and Seniors' centres.
The opponents claimed that if approved, it would 'destroy Ambleside'. Many councillors agreed but the project was approved by a 4-3 vote. However, since being completed, the development has been widely admired and considered the kind of 'missing middle' housing that should be built throughout the district.
In my opening remarks, I mentioned this since I was convinced the same would hold true for this development, given a significant amount of community opposition.
This opposition was generated in large part by CiviX West Vancouver Elector Society, a politically motivated community group led by Nigel Malkin and Claus Jensen. It previously stopped rapid bus service into Ambleside and Dundarave and effectively orchestrated hundreds of letters opposing the project.
Jensen even wrote to the Georgia Straight, hoping to amplify the opposition to the project. https://www.straight.com/news/proposed-three-storey-building-in-dundarave-raises-some-hackles-in-west-vancouver
However, when it was pointed out to Charlie Smith, the longstanding editor, that the group's claims were false, he wrote a powerful editorial on the need for municipal councils to ignore NIMBY organizations like CiviX and support well-conceived new housing proposals. https://www.straight.com/news/dundarave-proposal-is-a-test-of-west-van-councils-and-perhaps-david-ebys-resolve-to-address
|One of the many view impact studies prepared by IBI at the request of nearby residents|
Unfortunately, the CiviX opposition made it necessary for us, along with IBI Group, led by its president David Thom (a UofT Architecture School classmate) to go to extraordinary lengths to refute the organization's false claims and try to generate community support for the project. (As every developer can tell you, it's always easier to get people to oppose a project than support a project.)
Fortunately, people did write letters of support and showed up at last night's Council meeting. I must confess, we were all surprised...no shocked...when the first ten speakers all spoke in favour of our application. By the end of the evening, 25 of the 30 people who appeared in person and online urged council to allow the proposal to proceed.
This certainly made it easier for Cllrs Lambur, Wong and Thompson, who in the past have generally not been supportive of controversial new developments, to vote in favour of this one.
To conclude, thank you to Lisa Berg and other West Vancouver planning staff who went to extraordinary lengths to review our application and prepare a most positive staff report.
Thank you to the Ambleside Dundarave BIA, Chamber of Commerce, architect Paul Merrick, Polygon president Neil Chrystal, members of Positive Voices https://www.positivevoiceswv.org/, and everyone else who wrote letters and spoke in favour of the application. Thank you to Virani, who will be marketing the completed project, for helping to generate support.
|The development proposal includes a wider sidewalk along Marine Drive and enhanced mid-block connection to Bellevue Avenue and the beach.|
Special recognition to David Thom and IBI for creating amazing presentation materials and help the community visualize the completed development and dispel the CiviX lies. This included a time-lapse video that illustrated why the sidewalk across the street would not always be in shadow. Some of their submission can be found here https://westvancouver.ca/home-building-property/planning/major-applications/2452-2490-marine-drive
|David Thom brought in IBI architects from Los Angeles and Toronto to assist with the preparation of the most impressive graphic materials. Today the firm has over 3400 employees!|
Finally, a big thank you to Connor Yang and the principals of Brimming Development for having faith in us to get their Development Permit Application approved.
Now we must refine the suite plans, prepare the Building Permit application and get all the additional approvals, and find a contractor who can build the project in less than the three years many expect construction to take. I hope it won't take that long since I have been asked to continue with the project and could be 79 before it's finished!
That said, I heard on the radio this morning that Mick Jagger is 79 today and still performing every week. Tonight he's in Lyon, France.