News and notes from City of North Vancouver council
Tangled up in blue
In November, city council unanimously endorsed "in principle" becoming a blue community. On Monday night, they made that transition official although the decision to do so wasn't as one-sided as it was in the fall.
To become a blue community, a municipality must adhere to three basic rules set out by the proponents of the Blue Communities Project — the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Council of Canadians.
Those rules are: banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, recognizing water as a human right and committing to promote publicly financed and owned water services.
Because the CNV already restricts the sale of bottled water in facilities such as city hall, the library and the RCMP building, council was only required to support the final two points outlined by the program.
But it was Coun. Craig Keating's motion to ban the sale of bottled water at places such as city rec centres that caught the ire of other councillors. In November, Coun. Guy Heywood asked if city gyms could be exempt from blue community rules because he didn't agree that only selling "sugary beverages" at community centres instead of water was a healthy decision.
Heywood, along with Coun. Don Bell, argued Monday that people forget water bottles from time to time and the option to buy water in such a situation makes sense.
"We should be promoting water but you don't get people to change their habits by eliminating choice. You don't get people out of their cars by taking away parking spots," Heywood told The Outlook.
"You do it by having different options and promoting them."
Keating, on the other hand, called council's decision "the right thing to do."
"We pay a lot to purify the water we have," said Keating, in reference to the recently-completed $800-million Seymour-Capilano filtration plant.
"And companies make out like bandits on bottled water."
Public water will now be promoted at city events. The installation of more water fountains or the purchase of a water wagon — a mobile tank of tap water — may also be approved to ensure easy access to tap water.
The City of North Vancouver is now the sixth Canadian municipality to become a blue community and the third in B.C., joining Burnaby and Victoria.
For more information on the Blue Community project visit canadians.org/water or cupe.ca/water.
Each year, the city's community development office presents it's work program to council in an effort to highlight priority development projects being handled at city hall.
On Monday, the 2012 work program was tabled and given unanimous support, although it was deemed "ambitious" by both staff and members of council.
According to the work program, there is currently 875,000 square feet of development in the city that has been approved and not built. The value of that square footage is $175 million. There is also another 1.7 million square feet of development being considered by council, at an approximate value of $340 million. All will be handled this year by community development staff.
Other projects for 2012 include: stages two and three of the ongoing Official Community Plan update process (dubbed CityShaping), a review of city housing policies for a Housing Action Plan as mandated by Metro Vancouver, Low Level Road designs, implementation of a child care plan (discussed at length on Monday, after a presentation from daycare owners and concerned parents about the decline in city daycare space) and design options for the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Facility.
There is an added "element of uncertainty" to the work program, reads the report, because of the ongoing organizational changes at city hall. How much time and manpower can be devoted to the plan hasn't yet been determined.
The projects listed above are but a snapshot of the department's to-do list. For more information, visit cnv.org and select the "Council Meetings" option under the city hall menu. The 2012 work program is attached to item 16 from the Feb. 6 council agenda package.
New museum plot?
The North Vancouver Museum and Archives will be exploring the possibility of a new waterfront address after council voted 6-1 in favour of museum and city staff investigating the Foot of Lonsdale's Pipe Shop as a possible new home.
The Pipe Shop, also known as Lot 4, is the red-roofed building located just north of Shipbuilder's Square and east of the former Maritime Centre site known as Lot 5.
The Pipe Shop is approximately 9,300 square feet. Currently, the Museum and Archives enjoys about 5,000 square feet of display space at its location at Third Street and Chesterfield Avenue, with about another 5,000 square feet of storage space off site.
In the early stages of the Onni development proposal for the Central Lonsdale Safeway site, the developer proposed building a 21,000-square-foot museum space in exchange for the added density their designs required. Council has since directed Onni to scale down the size of that development and the museum is no longer part of those plans.
There was some discussion Monday of building a mezzanine level in the Pipe Shop to increase floor space in the building. That option and the financial breakdown of converting the structure to suit the museum's needs will be part of staff's investigation of the site.
The building is owned by the Pinnacle International group but will be leased to the city for 50 years. The city is in charge of programing the space and entitled to any revenue gleaned as a result. The lease agreement was put in place after the city agreed to the added density required for the Pinnacle Hotel development.
In a sharp about-face from two weeks ago, council voted Monday to rescind its plans on establishing a Harbourside Task Force in favour of holding an information session and two town hall meetings about the large-scale waterfront development.
The issue was brought back for discussion by Coun. Guy Heywood, who previously voted in favour of establishing a task force. In a phone interview with The Outlook, Heywood said the reasons for his change of mind were twofold: the city cannot compete with land values in low density industrial parks in other suburban towns and the task force "wouldn't get any work done if we didn't take residential development in the area seriously."
By establishing an information session and town hall meetings focused on how to make residential development work in the Harbourside area, Heywood believes a productive debate can be had. By allowing a task force of only a few members to gather information about issues such as transit and parking in the area, the discussion, he warned, could lose focus and get stuck in the same residential-versus-industrial-land debate council has been having about the site for two years.
"This is not an simple question and I did not come to this easily. But this isn't an industrial park, this has to be something different," he said.
"The suburbs can afford low density industrial parks. We can't, it's just too expensive."
Coun. Don Bell, who also voted to rescind the task force decision after supporting it two weeks ago, said he wasn't happy with the four-to-six-month timeframe the city forecasted it would take before the task force could report its findings.
Both councillors Pam Bookham and Rod Clark vehemently opposed the new direction, citing the need to have all information on the table before making a decision on the oft-discussed area. Bookham moved a motion to defer a decision until after Seaspan spoke to council in two weeks — an appearance requested by Clark — to discuss whether or not it had any plans for the vacant land. Her motion was defeated.
The initial plan, said Heywood, would be to hold the proposed information session before the town hall meetings. By doing so, Heywood believes the public will have a chance to speak with city staff, transit experts or the developers, Concert Properties, about any concerns they may have about allowing residential development in the area.
Once that stage is completed, Heywood said two town hall meetings hosted by the city and paid for by the developer would follow. Those meetings, he added, could take place over two months.
If such a plan is initiated, Heywood said council should be in a place to make a final decision on the development by June. City staff, he added, will be returning to council shortly with a schedule for the sessions.
Preliminary planning and various public engagement events regarding the project have been ongoing since 2009. The parcel of land in question is owned by Concert Properties and Knightsbridge and located on Harbouside Drive, east of Bodwell High School and south of the auto mall. Currently, the land is zoned for light industrial and commercial use.
Concert Properties has requested council approve an amendment to the city's Official Community Plan, which would allow for residential development on the plot. That amendment has not yet been made but would likely occur after to the town hall meetings and prior to a public hearing in council chambers. Such an amendment does not mean the city is giving the project the green light, just the go-ahead to begin detailed designs for council to review and eventually vote on.
Various designs for the area have been proposed with varying degrees of density. The largest plan boasts 800 residential units with commercial space as well.