Residents urge West Van to get tough on monster homes
Monster houses are ruining West Vancouver, and something needs to be done, said a group at a district council discussion on Monday.
The “massive” houses, they said, are altering the neighbourhood character of West Van, and destroying any sense of community.
“Just go down Inglewood [Avenue]. There are huge houses,” said Justin Webb, who has owned a house in West Van for 10 years.
“We’ve lost more trees and greenery in our neighbourhood probably in the last five years than when we actually clearcut this land 100 years ago.”
He said 25 new houses have been built in his neighbourhood recently, of which he describes 80 per cent as “ugly” and 75 per cent on “clearcut yards.”
Echoing other audience members’ views, Webb said district council needs to put in more regulations to curb the construction of monster houses.
But, said district staff, work is being done to preserve neighbourhood character.
Monday’s committee of the whole meeting was called to discuss the “Housing Action Plan for West Vancouver,” including the current housing mix and affordable alternatives to single-family homes.
“The problem is we have sellers who are going to want to maximize the value of their property,” said Coun. Mary-Ann Booth. “And right now we have single-family zoning that incentivizes the biggest house possible.
“We have to be realistic about how we motivate people to do the right thing.”
The answer, she added, lies in giving developers other options to increase the value of their property, besides building a bigger house, such as allowing coach houses.
Council members debated the small backyard cottages in December, with most in favour because they increase the amount of affordable housing. Later this year council will decide whether homeowners will be allowed to build them.
Instead of large homes, district staff is encouraging a diversity of housing.
Many West Van seniors want to downsize to more affordable homes in their neighbourhoods, according to a report to be discussed by council. Young families and low-income residents are looking for the same thing.
But, worried some audience members, if the municipality doesn’t change its housing bylaws soon, many more “monster houses” we will built.
“I think we should really be encouraging infill housing,” said one woman who lives in Dundarave, adding alternative forms of housing should be allowed because West Van already has too many bulky houses.
“The character is gone anyway, especially on the north side where you look at the three-story, massive piece of concrete often with gates and walls. It doesn’t give anything to a sense of community.”
In general, the maximum floor area of houses in West Van can’t take up more than a third of the yard for larger lots or half of the yard for smaller lots.
But, as Coun. Craig Cameron points out, the district is limited in its say on the style of architecture that is most appealing to fit with the neighbourhood aesthetic.