District of North Vancouver council says no to towers on North Shore Winter Club land

A massive development proposal met swift rejection Monday as District of North Vancouver council nixed two Keith Road skyscrapers that would have paid for a new North Shore Winter Club.

The North Shore Winter Club has plans to build a 292,025-square-foot centre at 2420 Dollarton Rd. with two arenas, 10 tennis courts and a pool. But to pay for it, the club asked council to rezone 1325 Keith Rd., which would facilitate a land sale/exchange with Darwin Properties and a subsequent 930-unit development.

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The private, non-profit athletic club is struggling to pay high taxes and retain employees, explained club president Jay Frezell.

“We’re trying to survive,” he told council.

Darwin’s proposal consisted of 32- and 29-storey towers as well as a pair of a six-storey buildings and a two-storey structure that would have provided a home for the North Shore Unitarian Church.

After a seven-year search stymied by “high land cost and lack of suitable sites,” time is running short to find a new location, according to North Shore Unitarian Church president Jim Stephenson. The church is currently located on Mathers Avenue in West Vancouver.

“Our now almost 50-year-old building is even more inadequate and deteriorated. It will not last much longer without major upgrades and repair that we can’t afford,” Stephenson wrote in a letter to council. “The [Keith Road] location is exactly what we have been looking for: on public transit, just off of a major road, and highly accessible to the whole North Shore community.”

The deal would help prolong the winter club’s 60-year tradition without touching the taxpayers’ purse, Frezell said.

“Instead of coming empty with our hands out, we think we’ve come up with a solution that doesn’t cost taxpayers anything,” he said.

By shielding taxpayers and club members from expenses, almost the entire cost of a new facility – potentially as much as $200 million – will be paid for by increasing the value of the Keith Road property, said Mayor Mike Little.

“It’s a massive facility and it’s a massive amount of money,” he said. “I just don’t see it as being feasible.”

There is a logic in putting density near a bridgehead, Little said, noting a reduction in both commuting distances and strain on municipal infrastructure. While he said he couldn’t support development on the same scale as Seylynn, Little said he would consider a proposal with a more “modest uplift.”

The community would “scoff” at the notion of 930 new units near one of the most congested areas in North Vancouver, Coun. Jim Hanson said.

“Even entertaining such a proposal is contrary to any goals for livability of the area let alone addressing climate and CO2 emissions,” Hanson said.

The segment of Keith Road in front of the winter club “flows quite freely,” countered Coun. Mathew Bond. Bond added that construction of the project would be several years away.

“In that time, the B-Line will be in, the bus service to the SkyTrain will be in, all the interchanges will be complete,” he said.

Given the options to defer, proceed, revise or reject the application, Coun. Lisa Muri moved to reject.

Council is in the “very early stages” of an official community plan review, Muri noted.

“I think it is way early to discuss something like this,” she said.

The project includes 1,133 parking spots, a figure that, “just blows my mind,” said Coun. Betty Forbes.

Forbes was also critical of the type of housing being proposed, including 655 market ownership units, 175 market rentals and possibly 100 assisted living units for seniors.

“That’s not the kind of housing we’re looking for and this is not the place for putting that kind of congestion,” she said.

Coun. Megan Curren concurred.

“I don’t think the community is going to support a private club so that we would allow market condos,” she said.

Council voted 5-2 to reject the project with Bond and Coun. Jordan Back opposed.

Following the meeting Frezell announced plans to take council’s feedback, meet with partners, and see if the project can be adjusted.

“We believe our property is currently underutilized and that it will be rezoned,” he stated. “The question is not if, but when, and we hope it is not at the expense of a 60-year non-profit family club.”

 

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