Citizen asks West Vancouver Mayor for clarity on proposed development regulations for the Upper Lands (North Shore Mountains)

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MetroVanWatch shares with readers a copy of this letter from a citizen to West Vancouver Mayor and Council asking for clarity on proposed development regulations for the Upper Lands. Previously we have covered serious concerns about how the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) to 2040 was adopted in 2011 by Metro Vancouver without adequate public consultation. Staff and politicians in each municipality are now working quietly toward the July 2013 deadline to adopt a “Regional Context Statement” — a detailed land-use plan that must comply with the RGS. Few citizens have been involved in that process. We copy the letter from Bruce McArthur of West Vancouver here, to give readers an idea of the issues at stake. Consider West Vancouver as a case study — as the impacts will be highly visible by changing the views of the North Shore Mountains, and the process in West Vancouver shines a spotlight on how some municipalities are dealing with land use planning. Things get detailed, but it is extremely important that independent groups and individuals scrutinize what goes on at their local city halls. We will report back with further news on this case. (Image above is from our work in 2011 showing areas being debated relating to the RGS.)

February 11, 2013
Dear [West Vancouver] Mayor Smith and Councilors:
I would like all of our community to have a clear understanding of the current and proposed development regulations for the Upper Lands and how they will affect the future of West Van.

The Rodgers Creek Area Development Plan and the subsequent amendments in 2008 to the OCP and the Zoning Bylaw have radically changed the OCP guidelines for the maximum allowable dwelling units per acre in the Upper Lands.
The Units per Acre has been a good tool for calculating services and infrastructure costs to be provided by the Municipality because Units per Acre (UPA) are population sensitive. There has to be another way of having a diversity of unit types and sizes in any Development Permit Areas without allowing these large increases in the Units per Acre.

The October, 2007 Rodgers Creek Area Development Plan noted that:

  • The Existing Zoning upa for 50.4 Acres in Areas 2 & 3 was 2.5. This would allow for 126 units. 
  • The Existing Zoning upa for 159.1 Acres in Areas 4, 5 & 6 was 1.5. This would allow for 239 units.
  • The total 365 units would result in an overall upa of 1.74 for the 209.5 Acre package.

However the amended OCP Guidelines were accepted and a upa of 2.5 for the Upper Lands has been generally acknowledged.

Now the Zoning Bylaw No. 4662, 2010 (p. 600-19) shows that the maximum dwelling units allowable for Areas 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 are 707 or a upa of 3.37. This is an increase of 35% over the 2.5 upa.

The total Rodgers Creek area (Areas 1 to 6) of approximately 215 acres has been allowed 736 dwelling units in the 2008 amendments. Now the upa has risen to an average upa of 3.42 or an increase of 37% over the 2.5 upa and an increase of 97% over the previous zoning allowances.

This upward creeping of the upa has the following effects:
1. It alters the Community perception that these lands will never be developed with a density beyond an average 2.5 upa
2. It makes estimates for future development proposals uncertain
3. It changes values when property exchanges are being considered

The densification increases might not have had enough consideration when amenity contributions were negotiated, especially for the future impacts on all the roads and services that an increased population has.

Part of the Upper Lands Study Review WG deliberations will be the advisability of allowing some added development above the 1200 ft elevation. The Regional Growth Strategy is supporting future densification in the Upper Lands by relocating an Urban Containment Boundary above the 1200 ft. elevation. To date West Vancouver is only considering this relocation. With little or no opposition from the Community it seems probable that it could be established as shown.

I would like the WG to consider the following steps:
1. Initiate Community discussion as described in Policy UL–3 of the OCP
2. Define any proposed development area above 1200 ft. and map its boundaries so it excludes creek corridors and lands that West Vancouver owns
3. Indicate the Units per Acre allowance for this special area
4. Have the new Metro Urban Containment Boundary vary only from the 1200 ft. line to encompass the proposed new development area (move the remainder of the Boundary back to where it was within The Livable Region Strategic Plan)
5. Map the other acceptable areas that would be a fair exchange for allowing any development above the 1200 ft elevation

Other mapping issues within the OCP should be also clarified:
1. Update the Natural Environment Resources mapping to clearly define Creek Corridors, Old Growth stands and the Eagle Lake Watershed
2. Update the Parks and Open Space mapping to show West Vancouver’s Upper Lands holdings, changes that the PMP WG initiated and a clearly defined Whyte Lake Park.

The OCP bylaw Policies should be followed and if revisions are required to update the OCP an amendment process should be undertaken now.

Sincerely yours,
Bruce G. A. McArthur, West Vancouver

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