JAMES: Neighbours divided over density plan

JAMES: Neighbours divided over density plan.

“High density development inflates land values; this in turn increases re-development pressure on the more affordable older building stock. Only about 10 per cent of the city’s cost of infrastructure and services is covered by development fees.”

 

– Elizabeth Murphy, July 2014

 

When Denna Homes, the Onni Group, Grosvenor and other large developers complete their projects and move on, what percentage of project-related infrastructure costs will they have bequeathed to North Shore taxpayers?

Have you asked yourself that question as you wasted time in traffic, obeying the Find Alternate Route signs to avoid the rubble and barricades that have plagued our municipalities for the past five-plus years?

 

Elizabeth Murphy’s article, Vision and NPA More of the Same, in this month’s Common Ground magazine offers no comfort because, as a professional knowledgeable about development issues, she describes similar complaints to those we hear every day.

 

Murphy, a former property development officer with BC Housing and the City of Vancouver, might well have been writing about the North Shore when she saw little difference between right-and left-leaning politicians who support developers that build towers and marginalize communities in the name of EcoDensity.

 

To be sure, the unrelenting pace of construction we continue to endure puts some revenue from development cost charges into municipal coffers and provides on-site, albeit short-term training for unskilled workers who, otherwise, might not have those entry-level opportunities.

 

Will such modest upsides offset community concerns about the pace of change and the pressures on hospital and transportation services that follow increased density? Doubtful – as is any hope the developments will provide truly affordable housing.

 

Many people believe City of North Vancouver council decisions have favoured developers’ interests over the objections of current residents and that the city has become a blueprint for the societal stresses that accompany rampant changes to the places people call home.

 

In the Moodyville area, once-friendly neighbours who were united in their concerns about Port Metro’s expansion plans – are now at loggerheads over differing density aspirations.

 

Property owners like Michelle and Michael Binkley, who rightly say Port Metro deceived residents about the extent of the Low Level Road and Richardson silo projects, favour higher density so they can relocate without losing equity.

 

Others, including many renters, believe an official community plan increase from the current single family 0.5 FSR (floor space ratio) to condos at 1.6 FSR, would orphan their affordable homes and force them out of the neighbourhood.

 

Council’s 4-2 decision July 7 to support 0.75 FSR stoked the fire of those differing interests.

 

Unfortunately, that’s what happens when renters’ affordability interests collide with the goals of property-owners and developers who agree on a mutually beneficial land assembly.

 

Throw in histrionics from the mayor’s chair and someone was bound to go away unhappy.

 

After viewing that portion of the meeting several times (CNV video archive at 05:16), I decided to run some of the rumours to ground.

 

Why had the Binkleys expected a different result? Had someone given them FSR assurances as rumours suggested?

 

“No one was promised anything,” Michael Binkley wrote in answer to my question.

 

Nevertheless, he wrote that during the lengthy CityShaping process “90 per cent of participants were in favour of land use changes in the East Third Street area.”

 

Binkley also says the four councillors who later voted to support the 0.75 FSR “threw all they had demanded (of CityShaping) out the window” and “voted their own personal opinion.”

 

I put Binkley’s comment to Couns. Don Bell, Pam Bookham, Rod Clark and Guy Heywood.

 

Yet to hear from Bell, the other three strongly reject that assertion.

 

“We did not throw out everything done in CityShaping,” Clark wrote.

 

“Specifically, with respect to East First to Third in the 400-, 500-and 600-blocks we have instructed staff to bring in the OCP bylaw with a 50 per cent increase in density to 0.75 FSR.”

 

Clark believes such a significant increase in allowable density “will generate interest in the development community to pursue housing renewal in the area.” Bookham says that in her case, “when council asked staff why they proposed 1.0 rather than 1.6 FSR, I just wanted an explanation as to why staff felt 1.0 was a better solution.”

 

Addressing the wording of survey questions, Heywood – who is not seeking re-election in November – said surveys can be used to “manufacture consent from the quantity of participation” rather than to “learn from the content and quality of the many different views expressed on behalf of the wider city population.”

 

“Notwithstanding the mayor’s fervent wish to give something to a neighbourhood that has been affected by port developments that he claims personal responsibility for promoting – the city is not allowed to compensate a neighbourhood … for alleged, but as yet not quantifiable, damage done to it by Port Metro or one of its tenants.

 

“We (the four) wanted to reinforce the point that new growth should respect an overall plan for the right place to put it, not just hopscotch across neighbourhoods to respond to the wishes of a certain population who want to cash out and move on,” Heywood concluded.

 

Stay tuned; methinks we have not heard the last of this council’s leadership desire to – single-handedly – satisfy Metro Vancouver’s density dreams.

 

rimco@shaw.ca

 

© North Shore News

– See more at: http://www.nsnews.com/opinion/columnists/james-neighbours-divided-over-density-plan-1.1257410#sthash.IZBPcNg8.dpuf

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