British Columbia·Metro Matters

District of North Vancouver goes back to residents for direction on long-debated piece of land

Mayor Mike Little believes the process can be improved with a greater focus on the desires of local residents.

New mayor says community concerns weren't adequately prioritized in previous consultations

Proposed rents for the rejected building on the Delbrook Lands rented between $1,000 to $1,260 for a studio to $1,663 to $2,550 for three-bedroom units, with people having to prove a household income between $40,000 and $102,000 when applying. (District of North Vancouver)

The District of North Vancouver is heading back to the drawing board over a plot of land they've been trying to develop for over three years.

Council passed a motion Monday to restart consultations on the Delbrook Lands, a 1.7 hectare piece of land located at 600 West Queens Road  — an area that was scheduled to have four storeys of purpose-built rental and a seniors' respite centre, until the necessary rezoning was voted down by the new council in November

"Is a rare opportunity to have such a large chunk [of land] together," said Mayor Mike Little, who didn't want to prejudge what could be proposed under a new plan. 

The previous consultation effort won an award for engaging the community, but the end result was rejected by council last November. Concerns included the height of the project, traffic concerns, a lack of parking and the majority of units being studios or one-bedroom.

But Little believes the process can be improved with a greater focus on the desires of local residents. 

Community association deeply involved

"There are some voices that we just don't think were considered to the level that they should be," said the mayor, who was elected in October with a campaign centred on slowing the pace of growth. 

In the motion passed Monday, council will hold a workshop with the Delbrook Community Association (DCA) before providing direction to staff on what they would like to see on the site — who will then consult with the the local neighbourhood "to determine form and character of buildings and preferences." 

Not surprisingly, the DCA is "thrilled" with the new process. 

"We really want to be engaged right through until the shovel starts digging to ensure it's not just an ultimatum: take this project as you see it or leave it," said Rene Gourley, the DCA's chair.

"Once we start getting down to the nitty gritty of [what] the form of this actual development looks like — people across the district are not as interested in that, but certainly people that are in the neighbourhood will be very interested in it."

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little says he wants this consultation process to better prioritize the interests of the local community. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

Still a hope for non-profit housing?

Where that leaves the previous project is unclear. Catalyst Community Developments Society, which was scheduled to take over the land and operate rental properties at below-market rates, said they haven't been contacted by the district, but would interested in being part of a new solution. 

"I hope that we are still taking all that we learned through that [past] process because I think it's so important. This is district land that really the whole community should benefit from," said Coun. Jordan Back. 

He was one of two councillors to vote for the former project, and said "the timing of this was unfortunate", since the final vote happened shortly after an election where growth and development were major issues.

"I think it just got caught in that timing where there was a message that the majority on this council wanted to send and that message was sent." 

Little acknowledged the tension when deciding what priorities in development debates matter most.   

"There's no question that balancing regional prerogatives — sometimes things that are a little bit invasive — and the local community is always going to be a challenge," he said.

"I hope that this approach ... will mean that we'll have more success at bringing them to fruition but also make sure that they fit in with the community in the long run.

Metro Matters: On The Road is exploring how new city governments throughout B.C. are approaching age-old issues (some political, some not) in their communities.

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