One of the oldest businesses in District of North Vancouver was forced to move to a new location after high taxes and a change in land use designation left them with only one option: Land sale to developer. Dykhof Nurseries had been selling plants and garden supplies at 460 Mountain Highway since 1957.
At a meeting on July 22, the District of North Vancouver council voted to give Dykhof a temporary use permit to relocate their business to Maplewood Village Centre, in the 2300 block of Old Dollarton Road.
The site is owned by the district and consists of four vacant properties. The temporary permit will allow Dykhof to set up a 5,000 sq. ft. sales building and storage area as well as an outdoor display area with 27 on-site parking spaces.
Dykhof never really wanted to move from the Mountain Highway location. Having established a large base of loyal customers, their plan was to continue at the same location for decades, said Ineke Mulligan, the president of the nursery.
The adoption of the Official Community Plan in 2011 and designation of the area as a town centre, however, disrupted that plan.
“Suddenly we were a non-conforming use, with our block specifically targeted for significant residential and commercial redevelopment, and it became clear through all subsequent interactions with district staff that it would be impossible to continue to operate as we have at this location for much longer,” Mulligan told the council.
The change in BC assessment for highest and best use also pushed the taxes to a point where selling to a developer made more sense. The financial burden of owning the property in the area made it unfeasible to run a business at the location, and the nursery was sold to a residential developer in 2015.
Dykhof came for a temporary use permit at district-owned land at the suggestion of Councillor Lisa Muri, who said the nursery was forced to sell due to the change in land use designation and higher taxes.
Muri said even before the sale, the nursery was paying high taxes, adding that highest and best use hurts small business.
Mayor Mike Little said he and other mayors from Metro Vancouver were working together to lobby the province to change the way BC assessment worked. Small businesses, he said, were being hammered due to how properties are being evaluated. As an example, he said, just one recent sale increased the assessment in the Upper Lonsdale area by 93 per cent.
Little said he was concerned that the business would be dependent on District land but was supportive of giving the temporary use permit. Councillors Matthew Bond and Jordan Back were also supportive.
Back said split assessment was a very serious issues, and he was hopeful Mayor Little’s initiative with other mayors would help find a way out for small businesses. “I don’t want our community to lose businesses like Dykhof, which has been part of our community since 1957 and that is incredible,” he said.
Councillors Jim Hanson, Betty Forbes, and Megan Curren voted against issuing a permit. “We are dealing with facilitation of a private business. Given the impact on the wetlands and storm water run-offs and the elimination of animals and birds and the things that creep and crawl I can’t believe it is necessary for us to damage this forest for this purpose,” he said.
Curren said that in light of recently declared climate emergency, every single bit of the district should be seen as an endangered area. “This forest has second growth which is highly valuable and it is home to animals. The wetland is significant, and there are very few of them left,” she said.
To the north of the site is a wetland swamp and a mature riparian forest that provides wildlife habitat, which concerns Kevin Bell, the director of Wild Bird Trust. He opposed the permit citing effect of habitat loss that will occur with tree cutting, the impact of storm water run-off from the nursery, and the cumulative effects of the development on the wetlands.
The staff told the council that Dykhof would maintain a 15-metre streamside protection area from the wetland to the north, which will be clearly demarcated with a fence. The nursery also plans to capture rainwater and use it for irrigation. 32 trees will need to be removed, but Dykhof will have to present a replanting and landscape plan once the temporary permit expires.