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North Van city spikes beach volleyball plans, museum funding goes down with it
It was meant to get the ball rolling on a short-term strategy of the North Vancouver waterfront.
But when half of city council spiked plans for an outdoor beach volleyball centre, the other half took their ball and went home — leaving the long-term future of the waterfront site up in the air.
At Monday’s meeting, council seemed poised to finalize its plan to build five beach volleyball courts on Lower Lonsdale’s empty Lot 5 Shipyards site, having approved preliminary studies and directed staff to move on the project as recently as July 23.
The courts were to be temporary, there for at most “a few years” starting this winter while long-term plans for the revitalization of the waterfront were hammered out, according to city engineer Douglas Pope.
But when it came time to foot the $140,000 bill for the courts Monday, the council majority suddenly had cold feet.
“It happens to be the end of October now and the rains are here and the rains are going to be here for five or six months, maybe longer,” said Coun. Rod Clark. “And to be spending $140,000 for temporary-use volleyball is foolhardy.”
Coun. Pam Bookham shared his concerns, adding she doubted the real plan was for the courts to be temporary at all.
“My concern is that once there, it might be difficult to persuade them that we have other uses that would serve more of the community and fit more with what we are trying to do on the waterfront,” Bookham said. “I don’t know whether the feeling on council is that they see this as a permanent use but I think that now would probably be the time to speak up.”
Joining councillors Clark and Bookham in voting down the volleyball plans 4-3 were councillors Guy Heywood and Don Bell, prompting outcry from pro-beach volleyball councillor, Craig Keating.
“If we’re going to wait around and say we’re not going to have temporary uses on that site and instead we prefer what looks like a frigging dump,” Keating said, “if that’s the vision of some members of council, please get it on the record.”
The defeat prompted Mayor Darrell Mussatto — who along with Keating and Coun. Linda Buchanan supported the beach volleyball initiative — to request that a $50,000 funding appropriation for the North Vancouver Museum and Archives for preliminary work on its long-term plans for the waterfront site, be voted on separately from the other funding allotments in the initial vote. Those included not only the volleyball courts, but also $200,000 to hire a temporary waterfront project engineer and $550,000 for site remediation, both of which were unanimously approved by council.
Isolating the museum funding ensured that it, like the volleyball courts, fell afoul of council favour, with councillors Bookham, Bell and Heywood supporting the museum money, while councillors Buchanan, Clark, Keating and Mayor Mussatto voted against.
But Bob Heywood, chair of the North Vancouver Museum and Archives Commission told The Outlook he’s confident the exploratory funding for a waterfront museum site would be approved once cooler heads on council prevail.
“I think it was a ‘we don’t get our way, then you don’t get yours’ kind of thing and that’s unfortunate but it’s a local politics thing,” Heywood said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But it will come back again on serious reflection once council is more aware of the benefits that can accrue to the community from a well-done museum on that waterfront.”