West Vancouver

  • CityHallWatch/MetroVanWatch presentation to West Vancouver Council on 21-Feb-2011, click here.
  • Media release: (see top page)
  • Images based on modeling of RGS potential impacts: pending
  • Download image of the potential impacts of the Regional Growth Strategy on the slopes of West Vancouver. CityHallWatch, North Shore, RGS sprawl_compare_web
  • Letter from B McArthur to West Vancouver Mayor and Council, 7-Feb-2011. West Vancouver, RGS, risks to autonomy, to land, McArthur to Council, 7-Feb-2011. Excerpts: There will be a significant loss of the autonomy of West Vancouver’s Council over land usage if the Regional Growth Strategy is accepted in its present form. The adoption of the RGS document is not appropriate… The RGS is soon to be accepted by the 22 members … the public consultation across the region has been minimal…West Vancouver has had a continuing effort to improve the care and protection of our parks and open spaces. Just as we seem to be getting it right the new proposals push the process back again….Please delay any acceptance of the Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy until further discussions are advertised and held within West Vancouver.
  • Regional Growth Strategy plan triggers concerns over density in West Vancouver (Straight, 7-Oct-2010)

FULL TEXT (to view better, please download PDF file above)

Date:                   February 07, 2011
From:                  B. McArthur
Subject:              WEST VANCOUVER’S UPPER LANDS and Comments on Draft Metro Regional Growth Strategy (RGS)
To:                       West Vancouver Mayor and Council

There will be a significant loss of the autonomy of West Vancouver’s Council over land usage if the Regional Growth Strategy is accepted in its present form. The adoption of the RGS document is not appropriate for the following reasons:

  • In the weighted (population based) vote system used, Vancouver has 23.2% of the voting power. This might be appropriate for infrastructure decisions but it is entirely unfair when important Regional Land Use Designation decisions are made. Vancouver represents only 3.1% of Metro’s total land area.
  • There was no West Vancouver Community input or discussion that should be necessary according to the WV Official Community Plan. This certainly applies to any planned variation above the existing 1200 ft limit.
  • There has been insufficient information to justify the exclusion of the Conservation and Recreation Land Use Designation for parcels in West Vancouver. This designation should be the same as the Public Forest and Limited Recreation Areas that are described in the current OCP.
  • The RGS will deny the ability to re-designate lands from one Land Use Designation to another because it is not allowed for parcels greater than 1 hectare. West Vancouver has 41 parks that are 1 ha or greater. Lighthouse Park at 77 ha. is the only park that is not included within the Urban Containment Boundaries. There are at least 14 parks that range from 54 ha. down to 4 ha. These are significant parts of our Community.
  • The foreshore is another area that needs special attention and it should not be included within the Urban Containment Boundary. Community input is essential here.

The effect that the RGS will have is similar to the effects of Bill 75, the Significant Projects Streamlining Act where the B.C. government can pass construction project acceptances despite their obligations to deny them under other laws. The Bill 75 legislation passed with no public consultation. The RGS is soon to be accepted by the 22 members (21 municipalities + 1 Electoral District) and the public consultation across the region has been minimal.

West Vancouver has had a continuing effort to improve the care and protection of our parks and open spaces. Just as we seem to be getting it right the new proposals push the process back again. I’m including excerpts from documents that illustrate my reasons for these comments and I’ve added highlights for emphasis.

Please delay any acceptance of the Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy until further discussions are advertised and held within West Vancouver.


Then came the Upper Lands Report of June 2001. This Report put forward three scenarios for discussion purposes, distinguished primarily by different tools each providing Council with methods to achieve its community objectives.

  • Scenario 1 Status Quo

The policies of the current OCP are maintained.

  • Scenario 2

New tools and considerations outlined in this Report are put into the plan but the area considered for development does not change from Scenario 1 (development is restricted to below the 1200 foot contour).

  • Scenario 3

It is the same as the second in terms of tools, but it allows the community to consider proposals to vary from the currently fixed 1200-foot elevation restriction in limited circumstances.

A primary community concern would be whether a precedent would be set by allowing limited development above the 1200-foot elevation. It is proposed that this only be considered if there is a resulting major public environmental or open space benefit.

Next Steps

  • Consider proposals within the context of the OCP review (currently underway and expected to be completed in 2002).
  • Revise the OCP, bylaws such as the Zoning Bylaw and other regulations


The Official Community Plan (June 2004) was adopted and it contains some of the recommendations made in the Upper Lands Report (June 2001). This OCP is still in effect and it will be revised after the acceptance of the Regional Growth Strategy (2011). Below are excerpts from the OCP.

Extensive areas above the Upper Levels Highway are mountain wilderness. Most of the uppermost areas will continue to be preserved in their natural forested state for watershed, open space, limited use and recreation, while lands below the 1200’ elevation will be developed over time as attractive neighbourhoods within a framework of significant open space features.


West Vancouver is recognized as a provider of green space. Approximately 62% of West Vancouver lands are currently designated as major parks, watershed, and limited use.  The LRSP designates Cypress Provincial

Park, Lighthouse Park and the Capilano Watershed and Capilano Regional Park as Green Zone, and the lands located between the 1200-foot contour and Cypress Provincial Park as “Areas Under Municipal Consideration” for Green Zone inclusion.

The Community Plan endorses and supports the protection of the Green Zone, through the following key policies:

  • Review policies and bylaws to further the protection of environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Work with the GVRD to include most of the approximately 2,800 acres of municipal land above1200’ elevation in the Green Zone.
  • Continue to restrict approximately 1,700 acres of privately owned undeveloped land above 1200’ for Limited Use and Recreation, while providing for the discussion of some use in exchange for securing and acquiring other environmentally sensitive lands.

West Vancouver’s 6,265 acre area of forested lands above the Upper  Levels Highway is known as the Upper Lands. 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 Upper Lands planning strategies are intended to articulate the community vision and to respond and adapt to market conditions and ongoing community input.

The Plan provides for community discussion of whether there should be consideration of some variation in the 1200-foot elevation development restriction within areas such as the central part of the Limited Use and

Recreation Area (refer to map Anticipated Development of Future Neighbourhoods ).  Further consideration would be given only if additional private lands are secured for public use in exchange for lands that would otherwise be developed or be of extraordinary environmental/recreational value.


Consider preservation of  Municipal Lands above 1200 foot elevation as public forest and limited recreation areas.

  • Undertake actions to maintain and support the continued use of Provincial and Municipal lands as recreation and environmental resources.
    • Continue to permit existing cabins on municipally owned lands provided the condition of the cabins is satisfactory and adequate for safety.
    • Designate all or parts of the public lands above the 1200-foot elevation for inclusion in the  “Green Zone” of the Greater Vancouver Livable Region Strategic Plan.
    • Continue to develop and support environmental inventories of the municipal lands above 1200’ to develop a comprehensive knowledge base.


  1. LEGISLATION (Peter Kenward of Clark Wilson LLP)

a. Hierarchy of bylaws

The Local Government Act provides for a hierarchy of bylaws and regulations. Essentially the system flows through the following components:

  • regional growth strategy
  • regional context statement
  • official community plan
  • zoning bylaw
  • development permit.

At root, what happens at each level is impacted by the next higher layer.

b. Metro’s role in land use process

Metro’s role is at two key points in that hierarchy:

  • whether or not to approve a Regional Growth Strategy, and changes to it; and
  • whether or not to approve Regional Context Statements

c. How RCSs carry the RGS forward

  • Each municipality must prepare its Regional Context Statement after the adoption of the RGS
  • RGSs cannot be adopted, and cannot be changed without Metro approval
  • Zoning changes that are not consistent with the municipality’s OCP can only be made if the OCP changes


a. Definition

A weighted vote system, based on one vote for every 20,000 residents, gives the most votes to directors from the municipalities with the largest populations.

No single director may hold more than five votes, and so larger municipalities have more than one director. For example, Surrey has four board members carrying a total of 20 votes. A smaller municipality such as Lions Bay has one director with one vote.

b. RGS Rules

  • Regional Land Use Designations that cannot be changed without a weighted 2/3 vote of Metro Board and a regional public hearing

–          Urban Containment Boundary

–          Agricultural

–          Conservation and Recreation

–          Rural

  • Where a 2/3 vote is required for changes, Vancouver has 23.2% of the voting power. This is a significant advantage when voting. Vancouver has 3.1% of the total land area of the Metro Region their voting power could have significant impacts on the land use decisions in other Municipalities.
  • A municipality can include language in its RGS that permits amendments to its OCP. This would allow re-designation from one land use designation to another but the aggregate area shall not exceed one hectare.


a.    Will there be opportunities for Community input and discussions prior to West Vancouver’s acceptance of the RGS?

b.    What Designation is anticipated for the Special Area on Map 12?

c.    Is the Urban Containment Boundary an indication of the extent of the infrastructure support that Metro will provide?

d.    If so why do we do we have this provided into parks like the Old Growth Conservancy?

e.    Why are there no designations in West Vancouver for Conservation and Recreation?

f.     Is there adequate protection for foreshore in the Urban Containment Boundary definition?

g.    The Urban Containment Boundary now includes a parcel of West Vancouver land that is in the area of the Cypress Creek watershed. Is this an allowance for Possible 1200 ft Variation that shows on the Areas of Potential Acquisition map? (page 100 OCP doc)

h.    Has any major environmental or open space benefit been discussed for the possible exceptions beyond the 1200 ft limit?

i.      Does Council expect that zoning and development permits will allow maximum protection for West Vancouver? The hierarchy of bylaws shows this is not necessarily true, has WV has sought any outside legal opinion on this?

j.      Has any concern been raised over the Metro Board weighted voting method where population density determines land use?


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