Though excavation and construction are already under way, West Vancouver council will soon be considering whether to add more floors to two already approved residential towers at Park Royal.
In May 2018, the previous council rezoned the property at 752 Marine Dr. to hold 203 rental apartments in 11- and 14-storey towers. On Monday, representatives from Park Royal were back before council to make a rare request to restart the process in hopes of adding more density.
The new proposal would add five storeys to each building, taking them up to 16 and 19, respectively, adding another 95 purpose-built rental units over 84,000 square feet. And while the latest iteration of the plan adds 119 extra bicycle stalls, the total number of vehicle parking spots would remain the same at 179 or 0.57 stalls for every residential unit.
Agreeing to higher heights could result in another $4 to $6 million in community amenity contributions flowing to West Vancouver’s reserves, which the applicant suggested could be spent on upgrades to the district’s arts facilities, a new youth centre or adult daycare.
District staff recommended against moving the new application forward, saying it was too soon for council to be approving projects with height and density greater than what’s allowed under the 2017 Marine Drive local area plan, and that it would undermine urban design guidelines council had already agreed to.
But, Park Royal vice-president Rick Amantea said much has changed since the 2017 Marine Drive are plan, including confirmation of B-Line service to Park Royal, passing of the 2018 official community plan, which calls for more housing diversity and rental units, and council’s recent declaration of a climate emergency.
“We’re confident that building 95 units here is probably the most environmentally friendly place and means of doing it,” he said.
The supersized plan had some supporters who urged council to go ahead.
“We need more and more rental accommodation. I don’t see a downside in these five floors that they’re asking for. There are no additional vehicles and it seems to be the ideal location,” longtime West Vancouverite Tom Wardell said.
Others, however, warned that if council approved the taller proposal, it would stoke cynicism and mistrust in the municipality and its planning processes.
“Why have this OCP if we’re going to just throw it out the window?” asked Barbara Brink, a resident of nearby West Royal towers.
Coun. Bill Soprovich moved to have the expansion plans scrapped calling Amantea’s rationale about rapidly changing community needs “absolute nonsense.”
“It’s not right, folks,” he said, predicting other developers would come back, hat in hand, asking for more. “Park Royal should be happy with what they have now.”
Soprovich could not find anyone on council to support his motion though.
Despite having voted against the original proposal in 2018, Coun. Peter Lambur introduced an alternate motion asking that the proposal be sent for public consultation, including with residents whose views would be impacted, asking Park Royal to come up with possible design changes and traffic mitigation plans, and for staff and Park Royal to negotiate on potential community amenity contributions.
“Regardless of the circumstances by which we may have arrived at this point, I always believe that we have to take a look at the fundamentals and not lose sight of the prize,” he said. “I think that consideration of this project actually offers an opportunity for building trust.”
As a newly elected council member, Coun. Sharon Thompson said she felt less burdened by decisions made by the previous council, and that she likely would have supported more density at the site in the first place because of its close proximity to transit.
Coun. Marcus Wong acknowledged the dilemma before council but said towers represented an opportunity for more young people to establish themselves in West Vancouver.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said she was torn between the principled and pragmatic arguments before council but said she wanted to hear more from the community.
“I do understand the risks associated with council’s credibility but on the other hand I also believe you do have to consider opportunities that are presented, so I am going to wait and see,” she said.
After a round of public consultations, council may choose to give Park Royal first reading for a new rezoning bylaw, which would trigger a new public hearing.
Couns. Nora Gambioli and Craig Cameron did not attend the meeting.