West Vancouver council has given the OK for a controversial mixed-use development in Dundarave, and condemned a misinformation campaign opposing it.
Council voted 6-1 Monday night (July 27) in favour of Dundarave Beachside LP’s three-storey development, which takes up the southwest half of the 2400 block of Marine Drive.
Once completed, the building at 2452 to 2496 Marine Dr. will hold 55 strata homes, 12,000 square feet of commercial space fronting Marine (including a large space earmarked for a new drugstore), 10,000 square feet of office space facing the lane, plus a new public plaza at Marine and 25th.
The project is compliant with the district’s official community plan and zoning, so it did not require a public hearing to advance, only a vote by council to allow for a height variance.
Still, dozens of residents turned up or tuned in to council Monday to sound off, mostly in support of the new homes and revitalization of the block.
Another, larger contingent wrote to council to oppose the project, saying its size would jeopardize the seaside village character of Dundarave.
But several council members called out a campaign from the West Vancouver Community Stakeholders group asserting the project would be 10 feet taller than the IGA building across the street when it would in fact be about two-and-a-half feet shorter.
Coun. Peter Lambur said he found that once people had the project carefully explained to them, their concerns were largely assuaged.
“I think it's unfortunate that that did occur in this project, but I'm confident that the residents in West Vancouver will be happy with the result,” he said.
Council members spoke positively about the project’s design, contribution to housing diversity in West Van and the change it would bring to a block of buildings reaching the end of their useful lives.
“I think really, it'll be a great addition to the community and I think it will be a great start of the revitalization of one of our core centres,” said Coun. Marcus Wong.
Coun. Nora Gambioli warned that council’s actions were being watched, and not just by nearby residents.
“This is really a test of the resolve of our council to address the housing and climate change crises and if we don't do it, there is a strong chance that the B.C. government may well take away our authority to even make these decisions,” she said.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth acknowledged the angst that new development and change causes but said there was no need to resort to dishonesty.
“This push and pull between growth and maintaining our uniqueness has gone on for over 100 years in West Vancouver. This is not new. Unfortunately, some of the division is being so sowed by social media,” she said. “I don't have a problem getting the facts out and encouraging engagement but when you have to basically lie about something to get people riled up, that's division – and it's not being sowed by council, and it's not being sowed by staff, and it's not being sowed by the developer. It's being sewed by some misguided individuals, and that's not right.”
Coun. Craig Cameron also lamented the decline of discourse in the municipality.
“When I talked to people about the substance of this proposal, they quickly realized that what they've been told was not correct and that the actual proposal is quite modest and quite reasonable,” he said. “I do think there's a sensible core in this community and I just hope that we in future are able to have calm, reasoned discussion of these issues.”
Coun. Sharon Thompson voted in favour of the project, but cautioned council not to be dismissive of a group of people who felt their way of life was under threat.
“There's still a greater part of the population who either don't understand the project or they are threatened by it. And in all my discussions over the last few weeks, you know, there's nostalgia to our charming seaside villages," she said. "But in my time with this, I have come to accept that I think it will be a great addition. It offers the housing and the commercial vibrancy.”
Only Coun. Bill Soprovich voted against the proposal.
“I can’t turn away from an awful lot of people that I talked to who had that sincere feeling in their heart that they want to hold onto something and this development, in my view, is a lot of massing on the sidewalk, which is overpowering,” he said.
Businesses evicted from the current sites will be given first right of refusal to move back into the new commercial spaces under favourable lease conditions, the developer said, and current West Vancouver residents will be given exclusive rights to buy the homes for the initial period when they are put up for sale.