A large mixed-used development in the Moodyville area, set to offer more affordable living options and create a neighbourhood hub, will move ahead after a “compromise” was reached between City of North Vancouver council and developers this week.
After a mammoth two-night public hearing, with more than 100 speakers, council voted in favour of allowing the Cascadia Green Development proposal for 402-438 East Third St. and 341-343 St. Davids Ave. to move forward, with an amendment to lower the height of one of the three buildings within the corner block project.
Council voted five to two in support of the developer’s application to change the city’s official community plan and zoning bylaw to allow the increase of one building from four storeys to five storeys as well as add a commercial laneway and extra retail and office spaces to the project at Tuesday’s meeting.
The 5,516.5-square-metre development’s three buildings include the west building, a four-storey 14.6-metre (47.9 ft.) building along East Third Street with 82 market strata residential units, including ground-floor live-work townhouse units; the east building, a five-storey 19-metre (62.4 ft.) mixed-use building with 71 market strata residential units, 14 commercial retail units, office spaces and a childcare facility, and the north building, which was originally going to be four storeys or 14.8 metres (48.6 ft.) at the lane, stepping down to two storeys at East Fourth Street, with commercial retail units facing St. Davids Avenue and the lane, and 16 residential units. The east part of the lane will be closed to traffic to create an outdoor market, with small shops sheltered by a colourful canopy.
At the public hearing, those in support praised the project for offering relatively affordable housing, with a rent-to-own and affordable home ownership program, its pedestrian "walkable" orientated design, the proposed mix of neighbourhood retail and restaurants and a new daycare centre with 16 spots.
Many residents who spoke against the changes to the OCP said they weren’t “anti-development” they just believed the project in its current form was “too massive” for the neighbourhood. Residents on East Fourth Street echoed the same concerns about the heights, size, expected density, and shadow impacts of the three buildings.
After hearing endless comments from neighbours that the “monstrosity” would cast a shadow over their homes, Coun. Angela Girard put forward a motion to amend the bylaw and reduce the height of the development’s north building by one storey or 10 ft., taking it down to a maximum height of 11.5 metres (37.8ft) and to keep the building terraced to reduce shadowing, which was supported by Mayor Linda Buchanan and all councillors.
Farzad Mazarei, chief executive officer at Cascadia Green Development, accepted the proposal change but said it would mean a loss of community amenity contributions of upwards of $500,000 and a reduction of between five to 10 units in the “much-needed rent-to-own program” – one of the most supported features of the project.
“It is disappointing for us to really reduce the number of rental units, but, I think, given the fact that we have been in this project for more than four years now, I guess we don't have that much of an option in front of us because of the carry-on costs and everything else that goes with a project of this size,” he said.
In question time, Mazarei had pointed out that if changes were made to the taller east building on Third Street, it would mean the loss of the daycare centre and a significant reduction to the development’s breezeway, which was widened to allow more light into the space, and if changed back would create greater shadow impacts.
Commenting on the loss of some of the rent-to-own program due to the height change to the north building, Girard said it was “regrettable,” but felt it was the “right thing to do for the community.”
Coun. Tony Valente agreed it was a “positive step in the right direction.”
"I think this is about a compromise and this is certainly the start of that,” he said.
“I realize this is a reduction in some of the benefits, but I think it's a reasonable reduction that actually does address some of the things that we've heard back from the community.”
Councillors had a robust discussion, raising questions about potential traffic woes, shadow impacts of the buildings, local school capacity and the rent-to-own program before voting on the amended bylaw.
“I have found making this decision on this project difficult,” Girard said, in her closing comments.
“I know that if I were living on the south side of East Fourth Street … and having to consider the possibility of sharing that lane with a strata complex with a significantly greater number of people, plus commercial, I too would be feeling that this was a big change for the neighbourhood.
"However, there are components of this project that I believe have great merit and could bring real benefits and change to that neighbourhood and to the broader community.”
While she sympathized with neighbours’ concerns with the height of the east building, she felt the impacts to making changes to that plan were too great, and would have resulted in a greater loss to affordable housing units which a number of young people and front-line workers called up to support.
Coun. Don Bell put forward a motion to lower the east building to four storeys from the lane but was not supported by fellow councillors. He then voted against the proposal moving forward, saying the heights would make a “drastic change” to the area that wasn’t fair to the residents who live on East Fourth.
Similarly, Coun. Holly Back agreed with many of the positive aspects of the development but labelled the amendment “a very quick knee-jerk reaction” and did not support the proposal, calling for further discussion with developers.
Melissa McConchie, who lives on East Fourth, and was one of many nearby residents calling for the developer to scale back the development, said she was thankful to her neighbours for speaking up to help “preserve the character of their neighbourhood” and to council for hearing their concerns.
“We are pleased that council took the initiative to require the developer to reduce their north building at Fourth Street from four storeys to three storeys so that it fits in better with the rest of the duplexes on this street,” she said.
McConchie said while the community was disappointed council did not require the developer to reduce the building heights on Third Street, they were pleased that there was some discussion on changing the practice of measuring the height of buildings, which she said had led to a lot of confusion for community members.
When it came to the commercial laneway, she said she “really hopes the city and the developer will ensure that agreements for a commercial loading zone and good neighbour agreements can be put in place so that this ends up being a positive experience.”
Buchanan said she recognized this process was emotional for people in the Moodyville neighbourhood and mentioned it wasn’t all that easy on council either.
“The concerns from the residents that we've heard over the last two nights as well as over the year are real and we understand that, but they're also very real for the people who came forth to say that they would really like to be in this neighbourhood, they’d really like to be part of this city, they'd really like to downsize or get into homeownership,” she said.
Buchanan said the city had a responsibility to look at innovative ways to deliver new housing, and this project would make it a reality through the rent to own and affordable home ownership programs.
“What we're all trying to do is make it [the city] the best place for all of us, but we're also looking at how can we make it the best place for people in the future as well,” she said.
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News