West Vancouver discussing Upper Lands future development scenarios on its North Shore mountains

Upper Lands Development Permit Area Designations West Vancouver 2013

Image from West Vancouver Upper Lands Policy report in 2013

MetroVanWatch has adopted West Vancouver as one case study of how Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Context Statement processes will affect all aspects of life in the region.

West Van-3, RGS before after, Bohus, Feb-2011, CityHallWatch-1

Top is actual photo of West Vancouver from Vancouver in early 2011. Bottom is MetroVanWatch computer image of possible future scenario under the RGS. Credit Stephen Bohus.

We made waves in 2011 by releasing a computer-designed image (below) of what the RGS might mean for the North Shore Mountains — with housing replacing all West Vancouver forests visible from Vancouver. Our image was flatly rejected by the mayor of the time. But was it prophetic? Time will tell. Below is a compilation of related information on discussions in West Vancouver about the Upper Lands. An excellent summary of policy, with maps, is available in PDF here.

Upper Lands Study Review Working Group

(Provides extensive information, including maps.)
The Upper Lands Study (PDF 8.5 MB) was completed in 2001. Its findings and policies were incorporated into the Official Community Plan (OCP), when it was adopted in 2004. The Upper Lands Study Review is proposed with the objective of reviewing the 2001 Upper Lands Report and the OCP and to confirm that the goals and policy direction of those documents are still valid and to identify changes, where appropriate.

Next related meeting is today, for ownership groups. Agenda is here.

Interest Holders Input Forum June 18 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Gleneagles Golf Course Clubhouse, Great Hall

Below is text of a presentation to the Upper Lands Working Group Stakeholder (User Groups) session the week of June 10, 2013, kindly provided by Bruce McArthur of the Old Growth Conservancy Society, plus more questions for City Council. 


Good evening

I am Bruce McArthur a Director of the Old Growth Conservancy Society.

We are a registered Society, formed in 2007 with the purpose of ensuring that the ecological integrity of the Conservancy is protected and that the natural values of the Conservancy are respected and appreciated. The Society’s formation followed a recommendation in the 2006 WV Council-commissioned Strategy for Protection, for a dedicated society to assist the District in the management of the Conservancy.

  • The Board is comprised of community members representing a range of conservation and recreation interests and a Parks representative attends Directors’ meetings as a non-voting Board member.
  • The Conservancy is a 54 hectare forested area on West Vancouver land just south of the Cypress Provincial Park boundary. It contains a mosaic of different aged forest stands, including a 30-hectare stand with some trees estimated to be over 900-year-old. Can you imagine that some of these trees were seedlings during the Crusades that started in 1096, or over 400 years old when Cabot reached North America in 1497 or 775 years old when the first non-native land owner held property in West Vancouver? Once slated for golf course development, the Conservancy is protected by virtue of a Municipal Referendum, giving it the strongest protection of any West Vancouver park.
  • The 1993 Referendum also contained a question about continuing studies by the District that could lead to further dedication of lands containing old growth. 81.5% said yes and if the District had acted on this perhaps Black Creek’s old growth would have been better known and therefore protected.
  • There is no official access except for the Conservancy Crossing Trail through the Conservancy’s SE corner, however the Society often provides other escorted visits.
  • The Society strives to maximize awareness and support of the Conservancy while encouraging the public to also visit other North Shore old-growth areas that exist from sea level up to our mountaintops. Few other municipalities, if any, contain this range of old growth, much of it in areas with hiking trails that provide excellent opportunities for public enjoyment and appreciation of these now scarce ecosystems.
  • The Society also keeps an extensive photo monitoring record of changes that are occurring on the mountainside.
    • The Society is hopeful that other stewardship groups will partner with the District to help preserve and protect parcels of significance in the Upper Lands:
  1. Where trails are poorly marked
  2. Where surveillance of unauthorized trail building is necessary
  3. Where there are increasing negative human and dog impacts on the biota of the forest floor and the watercourses
  4. Where there is an increasing risk from the introduction of invasive non-native species
  5. Where there are unauthorized native plant removals
  6. And especially to monitor impacts from development adjacent to park boundaries
  • The Society encourages the District to allocate sufficient funding and staff support for creating detailed inventories of the Upper Lands’ special features and biological values.

The Preservation of the Upper Lands, especially those above 1,200 ft, are the Society’s most important priority for the for these following reasons.

  1. For the forest values that include many bio-physical components such as native species, their habitats as well as creeks, wetlands and sensitive riparian zones
  2. For controlling excessive runoff during heavy rain events
  3. For groundwater conservation that will mitigate effects of climate change
  4. For a place for public’s recreational enjoyment and education
  5. For the heritage markings and indications left by former users and visitors

The Society uses the Upper Lands

  1. By conducting numerous hiking events that help educate the public on the values of forests and their environmental necessity
  2. To educate the public on the need for these fragile old growth stands to be preserved and protected and to make everybody aware of
  • The dangers from heavy intrusion
  • The potential for the introduction of invasive species
  • The potential for catastrophic forest fires
  • The deterioration of the stands due to edge effects

Conservation and protection of the Upper Lands is an issue that should be prioritized regardless of ownership

If you exclude the private lands to the south, below 1,200 ft elevation and the Cypress Provincial Park to the north, the remaining Upper Lands represent a relatively narrow band of forest. Already numerous highways, access roads, trails, utility corridors and private land holdings fragment portions of this forest. Population rise in Metro Vancouver will obviously increase the pressure for more access and use of the mountains and forests of the North Shore. The value of these lands to the community of West Vancouver is incalculable and they should be given the greatest protection that is possible.

The Society is trying to balance the goals of increasing public understanding and appreciation of the Conservancy while protecting it from excessive human impacts and we will continue to advocate for

  1. Minimizing development of areas adjacent to old-growth forests
  2. Protecting the “Public Use and Recreation Zone” and restrict development beyond the existing 1,200 ft. elevation limit
  3. Discouraging the use of old-growth areas by dog-walkers who do not keep their dogs under control
  4. Discouraging unauthorized mountain bike trails
  5. The provision of erosion control that is required because of inadequate maintenance of existing trails
  6. Finding enough new community members willing to take on stewardship responsibilities
  7. A sufficient District budget
  • For maintaining existing authorized trails in areas containing old-growth
  • For invasive species control
  • And for supporting all Stewardship groups

It should also be noted that the benefits of some development above the 1,200-ft limit have yet to be demonstrated as per the requirement that is described in the OCP Policy UL-3.

I’d like to close with a couple a couple of thoughts about trees and forests that come from a book on tree planting, Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill

  • Most of the original forests of California, Oregon, and Washington are now gone. The big tracts that remain grow north of the 50th parallel-the world’s last great temperate rainforest by the sea
  • Only one-third of this original forest cover still exists. Temperate deciduous forests were cut down long ago. There are only a handful of large, ancient timberlands left in the world
  • Trees may be the most obvious things about a forest, but they are far outnumbered by other organisms. The coniferous ranges of the Pacific Northwest are home to hundreds of different mosses and lichens. There are over a thousand kinds of fungi in every shape and color you can imagine and many more yet to be classified
  • Some of the tallest trees in the world can still be found here. The mighty redwoods of California. The cedars and Douglas-firs of British Columbia
  • There are few living things on Earth as old as the DNA of conifers. Coniferous forests of the world are heirloom ecosystems, repositories of survivor DNA

The OGCS was pleased to make a presentation this evening and we appreciate the concerns of all of the other presenters.


Questions to West Vancouver City Council

Below are further points and questions from Bruce McArthur to municipal officials, received by MetroVanWatch. Answers are pending. MetroVanWatch commends individuals and groups that make the effort to follow, analyze, and be actively engaged in urban planning topics in every municipality. As you can see, the details are complex and require long-term persistence and commitment. Our region needs more people like him and groups like the Old Growth Conservancy Society!

Policy UL-3 of the Official Community Plan states consideration of the 1.200-foot variation will be subject to Councils “Public Involvement Policy”

On September 24, 2007 the Community Engagement Committee revised the Councils Public Involvement Policy and it was renamed the “Community Engagement Policy.”

The Community Engagement Policy states that one of the means for achieving community engagement in West Vancouver is through Working Groups.

This Policy UL-3 of the Official Community Plan also states that the opportunity for community discussion of the possible benefits of some development above 1.200 foot will be provided and that this should occur prior to a full public review that is subject to Council’s Public Involvement Policy (which is now known as the Community Engagement Policy and its accompanying Working Group participation).

  • Council via the Community Engagement Committee has decided that formation and deliberations of the Upper Lands Working Group are appropriate at this time.
  •  A community discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of development above 1,200 feet should have been underway, unless the possible benefits have already been explored and accepted as reasonable.
  •  Otherwise why do the Terms of Reference for the Upper Lands Working Group anticipate recommending 1,200 foot variations before holding a full public review to determine community support? It’s like there is the anticipation that the public will approve and want to proceed.
  •  Will DWV be submitting a Regional Context Statement to the Metro Vancouver Board on or before the 29th of July 2013 even though the Upper Lands are described as a Special Study Area and exempted from inclusion until their status is determined?
  •  Will the Regional Context Statement require an OCP amendment and public hearing? When do you anticipate this happening?


Below is an excerpt from West Vancouver policy document for the Upper Lands. An excellent summary of policy, with maps, is available in PDF here.

West Vancouver’s forested g visual backdrop for both the community and the region. Planning policies for this 6,265 acre area, known as the Upper Lands, are long term and comprehensive, and intended to encourage exemplary planning initiatives for future changes within the area. The higher elevations have a long history of recreation use for hiking, skiing and, more recently, biking. Most of this area (72% of the Upper Lands or more than 4,500 acres), is above 1200 feet in elevation and will be preserved as Limited Use and Recreation.
Of the remaining approximate 1760 acres below the 1200 foot elevation, approximately 1600 acres (excluding existing parks) are shown as “Future Neighbourhoods Area” to be planned for future development over the coming decades. Development will be guided by the Plan’s policies that provide Council with the tools to:
 realize defined community building principles,
 protect environmentally sensitive areas,
 create desirable neighbourhoods; and
 acquire lands required to meet long-term community needs at minimal cost to existing and future residents.
The policies are intended to ensure that West Vancouver will continue to be a community of neighbourhoods, will focus on its environmental assets and will insist on the creation of great places to live. The Future Neighbourhoods Area, representing 7% of the total land area in the District, will be primarily comprised of homes, parks and protected creeks and greenbelts. It is expected that up to 60% of the dwelling units would be single-family homes, a proportion that currently exists in West Vancouver generally, but would differ from the single family emphasis above the highway of some years ago. The Plan describes the anticipated pace and expected areas of development for the next 10 to 20 years and provides that this projection will be reviewed regularly.

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