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West Vancouver accepts Regional Growth Strategy
When West Vancouver accepted the new Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy on Monday night, staff said the municipality will still have full control over its forested mountainside. But some residents say we can wave goodbye to Vancouver’s famous backdrop.
With the exception of councillors Michael Lewis and Bill Soprovich, council voted to support the RGS with two requests — that the Metro board place West Van’s old-growth conservancy in the conservation/recreation designation and that a special study be done on all 4,500 acres above Hollyburn Mountain’s 1,200 foot mark.
While the amendments are nice, they are too little too late, said Vancouverite Elizabeth Murphy, who has studied the RGS for the past year and a half and has written on the issue in various Lower Mainland newspapers.
“[Council’s decision] puts the whole area in jeopardy,” she said.
The new RGS, which provides guidance for coordinated regional decision-making, re-titles 1,700 acres of privately-owned undeveloped Upper Lands from limited use and recreation to general urban. It also changes approximately 2,800 acres of municipal land under consideration for green zone title to conservation/recreation.
This goes against the district’s Official Community Plan, Murphy said. It also means that eventually the district’s policies will have to fall in line with the regional strategy, she added.
“Even with the changes that [West Van is] suggesting they don’t address any of those concerns,” Murphy said, adding the request to extend the study area goes against the strategy’s legal policies.
The general urban title doesn’t mean the mountainside is game to construction, Sokol told council. If anything, the designation gives the district the authority to determine the appropriate use of these lands based on local policy, he said.
If the land was pegged for less intensive uses — such as green zones — and the district wanted to use it differently, the needed RGS amendment would require a regional public hearing and a two-thirds vote from the Metro Vancouver Board.
“With the designations that are shown in the growth strategy we have ultimate control,” Sokol said, noting all proposed developments must still go through the district.
The district may need to examine its 1,200 foot urban containment line, Coun. Trish Panz said. Leaving some flexibility in the future use of the Upper Lands could potentially save green space, she noted.
By placing the whole area in a special study, the municipality will put such questions on the table, something that’s overdue, Panz said.
West Van should have rejected the RGS and opted out of the entire plan, Coun. Soprovich said.
“I don’t think we should put the destiny of our lands in anybody else’s hands,” he told council.
Lower Mainland municipalities have until March 22 to accept the RGS. West Van requested Metro Vancouver rectify its proposed amendments by July 20.