Density Bonus Policy Reviewed

from the North Shore News Nov 6:

Mixed reaction to latest plan changes

The sometimes controversial practice of granting developers extra density in exchange for cash towards community amenities was back for discussion at the City of North Vancouver Oct. 28.

City staff presented changes in the new draft density bonusing policy, which will be incorporated into the city’s new Official Community Plan due out next year.

Council has faced increasing criticism in recent years for its policy of trading more density for amenities like affordable housing, childcare space, greener building standards, heritage preservation, market rental housing, commercial space or other community perks.

The system lacked accountability and predictability while encouraging the perception that any development’s approval could be “bought” if the developer offered the right price in community amenities, both critics and the city’s hired planning consultants concluded.

Under the new density regime presented to council, the city would require that developers pay a contribution of $135 to $145 per square foot of extra density when rezoning a property up to a yet-to-be-defined cap. Anything beyond that cap would require an OCP amendment.

Those amendments would require developers to pay 70 per cent of the increased land value to city amenities.

While generally regarded as an improvement, speakers still had mixed reviews of the policy.

Without specifying how high the base density is, how high the density cap will be set and a map plotting the density and zoning of the entire city, the information presented was incomplete argued Keith Road resident Linda Heese. Heese added that policy doesn’t address the strain on traffic, infrastructure or the North Shore’s only hospital that comes with densification.

Speaking for the Urban Development Institute, which represents developers across the province, Anne McMullin praised the changes for bringing greater clarity and reduced speculation for developers, land sellers and the public.

But, McMullin added, the new policy could dampen the incentive for landowners to sell to developers.

And without an understanding of what height limits will be placed in the new OCP, density increases could be a moot point if there is no legal way to configure the density, she added.

City staff will continue to develop the policy before it goes back to the public for more feedback.

© Copyright 2013

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