DEVELOPERS are one step closer to building a massive residential and commercial development on Harbourside Drive after the City of North Vancouver council agreed to change the official community plan Monday night.
After nearly four hours of listening to comments from the public and putting questions to the proponents and staff, council voted 5-2 in favour of amending the OCP to allow residential as a permitted use on the affected site - a key change that opens the door to the controversial project.
The developers, Concert Properties and Knightsbridge Properties, are hoping to build 800 units of strata and rental housing on top of 370,000 square feet of commercial space just south of the Northshore Auto Mall over the next 10 years.
The plan has drawn fire from residents who fear the appearance of so many homes in the area will create traffic and other problems. It has also touched off debate over whether the land should be a "vibrant and desirable" neighbourhood, as the developers envision, or a commercial centre for high paying jobs, as the current OCP calls for.
After seeing 19 years of changes to the city, especially near Lower Lonsdale, Mayor Darrell Mussatto said it is time for council to give the waterfront a fresh look.
"I think, in principle, the time has come," he said "When I was first elected on council, I wasn't in support of residential south of Marine Drive . . . Things have changed, and I'm willing to be open about things."
The development represented a best-of-bothworlds opportunity according to Coun. Don Bell, who argued that adding condos and apartments won't take away from commercial space, and will give residents a chance to live and work in one neighbourhood.
Coun. Guy Heywood, who also supported the amendment, vowed to get the best possible bundle of amenities for the city - something that won't happen unless the city approves the OCP change and gets the developers to the table to negotiate in exchange for rezoning the property, he said.
"This is the beginning of a long road, not the end. I'm not prepared to cut off debate and throw everything out just because I'm not afraid," said Heywood.
Couns Rod Clark and Pam Bookham, however, voted against the OCP amendment after listing many of the same grievances that came in the public hearing: poor access to the site across the narrow and steep Fell Street overpass and the dangerous at-grade rail crossing at Bewicke Avenue; the fact the change is taking place outside of the ongoing OCP review process; a lack of transit and parking in the area; and the fact that homes would be placed so close to the noise and pollution of Seaspan Shipyard and other heavy industrial businesses nearby.
Beyond that, Clark called the public consultation process a "farce" for coming up with poll results that showed inflated support for the proposal.
Particularly troubling for Bookham are the coffee shops and convenience stores that will pop up to serve the new residents when the city planned for that area to have higher-end jobs.
"I do not consider jobs at Subway, jobs as baristas at another Starbucks, or 7-11 jobs as the kinds of jobs we dedicated this part of our city to," she said, challenging council to hold Concert and Knightsbridge responsible for attracting higherpaying employers to Harbouside. "It's the quality of the jobs that will determine whether we have a truly viable mixed use."