Be ready for a new West Vancouver. If the district’s new Official Community Plan (OCP) is to be believed, West Vancouver would look and feel radically different by 2041. The district recently unveiled the draft of this revisionist document. It’s an ambitious blueprint for the evolution of a community from a sleepy sea-side village to a bustling, economically-vibrant community. Housing, economy, transportation, parks and environment, and social well-being are core elements of this transformative plan. On all these five counts, the district aims for concrete, measurable progress in two decades.
By 2041, the district aims for 30 per cent more housing, a five per cent increase in jobs-to-residents ratio, and at least 25 per cent more people walking, cycling, and taking transit. The district also wants a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and an extra 20 per cent people to be more active in local services and programs. A change in how and where people live in the community is a major thrust, with a vision for smaller homes on smaller lots, more coach houses and duplex with basements in them as well as rezoning properties for more duplex construction. The plan also calls for expanding the missing middle-triplex, row houses, town homes by adding 300 to 350 new such units. In its search for the missing middle, the district would give extra attention to proposals that are close to ‘neighbourhood hubs” such as schools, places of worship, parks, recreational facilities, local commercial nodes, and existing multifamily uses.
The plan calls for protecting buildings on the district’s heritage register and supporting the Lower Caulfeild Heritage Conservation Area and the small island character of Eagle Island by prohibiting attached or detached secondary suites, such as basements or coach houses. The OCP also calls for the creation of 1,700 to 2,100 new housing units in local area plans, with an estimated 1,000 to 1200 units as part of Ambleside Town Centre, as many as 500-600 units as part of the Taylor Way corridor, and 200-300 estimated new units in Horseshoe Bay plan as well 500 to 750 units as part of the Marine Drive Local Area plan.
Promoting new market and non-market rental, seniors and supportive housing units in appropriate locations close to transit and using surplus land owned by the district to increase the availability of more diverse and affordable housing are also part of the plan. The new OCP calls for restricting residential development in the Upper Lands, and creating a new plan for Cypress village and Cypress West neighbourhoods.
Boosting the local economy is also central to the OCP. It intends to do so by supporting the development of a boutique hotel, or rather hotels, in Ambleside Town Centre, along with bed-and-breakfast as well as short-term rental accommodations on heritage properties. There are also plans to enhance Horseshoe Bay village centre as a regional destination with more retail, services and restaurants on the waterfront. The OCP also aims to regenerate Dundarave and Caulfeild village centres with small scale, street-level retail as well as service and restaurants.
Expanding the health centre and technology-based employment is also stressed as part of the OCP. Working with TransLink to improve transit infrastructure, frequency and efficiency and emphasising to them the connection between Park Royal and Dundarave, as well as Marine Drive are other ambitious targets. The vision of the community’s radical reordering has met with praise, but also skepticism.
Former school board candidate Christine Banham said the draft OCP recognised that the community changed. “I am supportive of the way that the OCP review has been framed, taking into consideration the five key topics, and I am encouraged that the draft OCP has put some numbers on the page to accommodate future growth in areas that just make perfect sense for more intensive land use. An OCP is about land use, and all of the key topics in either major or minor ways touch upon land use.
Some are highly inter-related—transportation and housing, for example. The inclusion of the economy as a key topic is highly relevant, although this may be counter-intuitive to some long-time citizens,” she said. Former council candidate Andy Krawczyk has worked with the district as co-chair of two working groups. He said the draft OCP was an excellent start to the conversations West Vancouver needed to have.
He was pleased to see provisions in the draft that addressed housing and transportation needs in the community, along with the need for a vibrant local economy. Peter Miller of North Shore Heritage Conservation Society said the society supported all the points related to heritage retention, but would like the district to expedite the process of a Heritage Review Application, as well as create a pro-active strategy to identify and inform citizens who might qualify for an HRA.
Scenery Slater of the Ambleside and Dundarave Ratepayers Association said the district should ensure the OCP contained specific details and that public opinion was clearly integrated into the OCP. West Vancouver council watcher, Melinda Slater, said although the staff had done a good job of reaching out to the community, she was disappointed that there hadn’t been a formal evaluation of the engagement process.