Eagle Harbour residents oppose proposal for 53-unit development

·6 min read

West Vancouver’s Eagle Harbour community has strongly opposed a potential future development that would bring more than 50 new homes to the neighbourhood.

The preliminary proposal put forward to the District of West Vancouver, by Eagle Harbour Ventures, is for a 53-unit development across 4.5 acres south of 5665 Daffodil Drive. The proposal includes nine townhouses and 44 duplex units, with building heights reaching three storeys.

The site is currently zoned for a 10-lot subdivision, and the proposal for a much bigger development has the community up in arms.

The goal of Aquila Eagle Harbour, is to create a development that responds to the surrounding neighbourhood context and character while providing “missing middle” housing to bring more young families into the area.

After much discussion, council voted four to three in favour of receiving the preliminary proposal for information at its Feb. 8 general meeting – essentially, it is an opportunity for the developer to get feedback on their plan and adjust it before deciding whether to make a formal application.

While Aquila is still in its pre-application phase, around 20 nearby residents made the effort to phone in to the council meeting to state they were against the development happening altogether.

Residents believe the development proposal in its current form doesn’t fit with the district’s official community plan and the neighbourhood doesn’t have the adequate infrastructure or amenities to handle the added population density and traffic.

Some residents were also worried the development will have negative impacts on the surrounding environment and change “the character of the neighbourhood,” calling for a local area plan to be made for Eagle Harbour.

The plan first came before council in November 2020, but was deferred until the applicant could conduct further community consultation.

After community meetings, the applicant made a number of changes, including reducing the number of units in the development from 67 to 53 and increasing green space; adding additional electric car and electric bike charging stations to help reduce reliance on cars, and increasing the level of housing diversity through duplex home designs.

But the changes were not enough to gain support from the tight-knit community.

Speaking at the council meeting, Kelly Wharton, who lives at Eagle Harbour Road and has been a member of the community for 30 years, said the predominantly single-family home area was not the right fit for the development.

“The OCP encourages, as we've heard, development near town centres where multifamily housing already exists, or can be expanded due to appropriate transit, shops, and other amenities already in place,” she said.

“The Eagle Harbour neighbourhood is not part of a village type centre or transit corridor, such as Ambleside, Marine Drive or Horseshoe Bay.

“The owner is trying to fit the square peg of this project into a round hole,” she said. “The OCP is being used inappropriately as a justification for increasing density.”

Resident Mike Kime reiterated that Eagle Harbour was not a “walkable” hub suitable for the large development.

“We’re not in a hub,” he said. “We’re not in a place where you can walk to work or walk to school or the stores – everything is by car.

“We don't support this. I don't think anybody in the community out of the 60 odd people I've talked to support it, and we're looking for this developer to start seeing reason. He bought it as a 10-house property.”

While the majority of callers were opposed, one young resident spoke up to say the development would be positive for the area and hoped it would be adjusted to also include some rental housing.

“It's impossible to know what our neighborhood characteristics are or might be unless we take a chance on something new,” said 23-year-old Emily Kelsall, who has lived in Eagle Harbour the past five years and in West Vancouver her whole life.

She added that the development and increased density was an incentive for more infrastructure and amenities to be added to the area, such as a cafe and a boutique grocery store, which her fellow neighbours kept pointing out that Eagle Harbour doesn’t have.

Councillors had varying views on the development, with Bill Soprovich, Sharon Thompson and Peter Lambur all voting against the motion to just receive the report for information.

Soprovich said he supported the community’s call for a local area plan for Eagle Harbour and encouraged the developer to “listen to the people.”

“It's not my job to tell them what to do but they better get a strong message,” he said.

Thompson said while the project checked a lot of the district’s OCP boxes, and it was nice to see the developer trying to soften the density, she didn’t think it went far enough. “I'm not prepared to support something to go through, that's going to keep a community on edge, that is going to take up staff time, that could possibly waste developers' time, and ultimately land us here another month or two having exactly the same conversation,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mary-Ann Booth and Couns. Nora Gambioli, Craig Cameron and Marcus Wong supported the motion.

Both Cameron and Gambioli pointed out that it was a choice between more “mega mansions” or smaller units for families to come into the area.

Cameron said the “not in my backyard” view was unfortunate and hoped a compromise could be reached that suited both the developer and the community in the future.

“What I hear people saying is that they would rather 10 8,000-square-foot houses … rather than welcoming another 20 to 30 families into the neighbourhood, which is, quite frankly, it's really sad,” he said.

“I think the fears that a lot of people have of change, while understandable, aren't going to be borne out. And, I think the fact is, these kinds of lots, where we have a larger piece of land that you can build that missing middle housing are rare … and I am not willing to just build another 10 mansions.

“I do think it's important to try to make this project fit in visually … and make sure that we can address the concerns, but at the same time, I think it would be a failure if we didn't approve something other than the existing zoning.”

Cameron and Gambioli also called on the developer to do a more complete traffic study before submitting an application.

Booth said it was important to take opportunities to do something different and to create housing diversity and affordability in the district, which has about 1,700 empty luxury homes.

“The fact that we have an oversupply of empty mansions means that we don't need any more single-family houses, we need something other," she said. "So, the default position when we have an opportunity to actually influence the decision, and really that only happens in a rezoning, is not single-family. It's something else.

“I don't know what the magic number is here. I don't think it's 20. But maybe it's not 53. So maybe it's in between, but it is definitely not 10 large homes.”

Details of the proposal are not finalized, and the district has not received a formal application for the development.

Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News