If Councillor Pam Bookham had her way at a recent council meeting, a major developer would have lost a contentious change to OCP granted by the council five years ago. Concert Properties came before the council in 2012 to ask to rezone waterfront land from Industrial to a mixed-used commercial and residential on Fell Avenue and Harbourside Drive.
It was a controversial ask at the time but the council granted the go-ahead to change the OCP designation and allow for a mixed-use commercial and residential neighbourhood. But five years later all that remains is a barren land with no sights of a development that Bookham said was touted as a vibrant neighbourhood that would provide jobs and office space and revitalise the area.
“Vibrancy sold this project and it’s now in danger of never being realised and I don’t understand why we are not pulling the OCP approval for this. We move this forward or it reverts back to its original OCP designation, which was a place where jobs could be provided. I don’t understand why we would be supportive of Concert when they seem to be unwilling or unable to move forward and deliver the vision they sold to us against a great deal of resistance,” she said.
Coun. Rod Clark also expressed his frustration at the five-year delay, noting that city let go of industrial land to give way to a more mixed designation. “Well, if only I had a dollar for every time I hear Concert was going to do something there.
“Concert came here and said we are going to build a wonderful, wonderful industrial park and according to them that didn’t too well and then they came back and in a very contentious, drawn out process got residential and commercial. It’s been sitting there forever, I want to see some action and I want to see it soon. They have promised and they haven’t delivered,” he said.
The council recently heard from the developer but it wasn’t news about shovels hitting the ground. Instead, Concert came before the council for another ask: It wants to exchange land use and reconfigure commercial space. The company now wants to first build market rental housing on the lot where it first planned a seniors’ rental-assisted living facility and it wants to reduce commercial on two sites and move the commercial to the remaining sites.
“There is a very strong need for both rental housing and seniors’ rental housing in the City of North Vancouver. Delivering rental housing in earlier phases of the Harbourside development will help to address historically low rental vacancy rates,” according to the developer. Councillor Craig Keating agrees.
Keating said he shared the frustration of the council but also felt that Seaspan workers could benefit from housing in the location. Keating said he recently a steady stream of workers leaving work and joining traffic who could stay in the neighbourhood with the kind of housing being proposed by Concert.
“If anyone needs housing near that spot, it’s Seaspan because there isn’t any housing. It would be great if we could have some housing there so people working at Seaspan could live there. I saw hundreds of people today at Seaspan that could use this,” he said.
Councillor Pam Bookham said she recalled a Seaspan representative saying the workers won’t be able to afford the housing being built there. She asked Concert representative if the company has had any conversation with Seaspan over housing.
“Our intent is to provide rental housing and I don’t have any conversation with Seaspan and whether that is going to be affordable for their employees,” said Craig Water, a senior vice-president of the company. He said Concert plans to bring forward a development permit application soon. Council granted the company’s request with Coun. Bookham opposed.