City of North Van OKs 21-storey tower for Central Lonsdale

City of North Vancouver council has given approval to a new 21-storey tower in Central Lonsdale.

Council voted 5-1 Monday to approve Three Shores Development’s request to build 164 strata homes over top of commercial and office space at 120-128 East 14th St.

The project includes 8,710 square metres of extra buildable space over and above what the OCP allows thanks to a density transfer from the city-owned Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre lands for which the city will receive $18.2 million.

Because the project was largely compliant with the city’s OCP, the municipality was prohibited by new provincial legislation from holding a public hearing prior to the rezoning vote.

It was, however, the subject of a letter-writing campaign, largely from residents of the CentreView building directly across 14th Street.

Residents there complained that the tower was too dense for the site, that 14th Street already suffered from too much commercial traffic and a lack of parking near Lions Gate Hospital and the RCMP, and that years of construction would create too much disruption for neighbours, businesses and the one-way street below. It also would spoil the mountain views of residents on the north side of the CentreView building, several residents argued.

Some members of council noted that the concerns were nearly identical to the ones raised by the community when Onni’s CentreView project was still just a proposal before city council in 2013.

“Too big, too much traffic, too many people,” Coun. Tony Valente recalled. “We can choose to focus on these negative aspects … but as a councillor, I need to think about now and I think about the future as well. And we know that we do need housing.”

Coun. Holly Back also specified that the city cannot ever guarantee that someone’s view will never get obstructed. And, although it was a difficult decision, she spoke of all of the services that would be a short walk away.

“Transit, business, restaurants, food stores, the hospital, medical offices,” she said. “I think this is the prime location for this kind of density.”

Coun. Angela Girard spoke in defence of the density transfer, saying the city relies on that kind of funding to provide amenities that people enjoy, including The Shipyards.

“We’re gaining almost $21 million as a city,” she said. “To create a livable, walkable, enjoyable city – we can’t do it on property taxes alone. I just want to remind you of that when we’re talking about density.”

Coun. Don Bell was the lone Nay vote on the rezoning. Bell said he preferred more “managed growth.”

“We are not forced or obligated to approve any specific rezoning just because the OCP maximum limits are not exceeded. Council still has the authority and indeed responsibility to consider the pros and cons of an application and to approve or deny a rezoning application,” he said. “I think this is over development on this particular lot in this particular location.”

Mayor Linda Buchanan acknowledged those who disagreed with the proposal but she said it embodies the city’s entire philosophy of concentrating growth near transit and amenities and the public benefits that brings.

“Our city has grown and it will continue to grow in a very thoughtful, planned out manner, which we have done for decades,” she said. “Over the last five years, we have continued to focus on advancing our city as a very resilient, welcoming, vibrant, connected and prosperous city for all people.”

Coun. Shervin Shahriari declared a conflict of interest and recused himself from the debate and vote because he owns an investment property in the same neighbourhood.

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