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Edgemont seniors’ complex approved amid jeers
A dramatic conclusion to the Edgemont Village seniors’ complex debate played out in District of North Vancouver council chambers on Monday night.
Prior to the meeting, district staff and council were made aware of a petition from Edgemont residents to stop an application for a 115-unit, three-storey seniors’ independent living facility from being approved for their community.
The 11th-hour petition was spearheaded by Susan Hingson, who lives across the street from Canfield Crescent and Highland Boulevard, which is the site of the proposed Edgemont Senior Living complex.
She also sat on the Canfield Working Group, whose members served as liaisons between the project’s developer, district staff and the greater community.
Hingson started collecting signatures after council gave third reading to rezoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment bylaws on July 15, essentially green-lighting the senior’s housing project in what was a 4-3 decision.
“The purpose of the petition was if we could change one councillor’s mind, that’s all it would take to defeat the bylaws,” Hingson told The Outlook on Tuesday. “It was frustrating to think one vote can make a decision.”
On Monday, council-goers were greeted by a handwritten sign that stated: “As the public hearings are closed, no further input will received on the following items…” Included on the list were the rezoning and OCP bylaws for Edgemont Senior Living.
But that didn’t stop a contingent of opponents from packing council chambers to make their presence known.
Mayor Richard Walton went so far as to preface the vote on the project with an explanation on public process.
“We do follow a process here for introducing bylaws right through to first reading, public hearing, second and third reading and fourth reading that is pretty standard.…”
Municipal policy was put to the test shortly after Walton’s statement. While he was calling the question on the motion to adopt the bylaws, Coun. Lisa Muri, a vocal opponent of the Edgemont seniors’ complex, raised her hand to speak.
“Can I clarify something?” Muri asked the mayor. “So if this motion passes and the item goes forward, I would like an opportunity to put a subsequent motion forward.”
At that point there were three mutually exclusive options available to council: adopt, abandon or rescind third reading of the bylaws.
It was unclear to the public who had the floor first, but Coun. Roger Bassam used the district’s formal protocol of pressing his microphone button. Under this system, each speaker’s name appears in order on a computer screen visible by the mayor and district clerk.
Because Bassam’s name was first in the queue, Walton acknowledged him first and he was able to make a motion that effectively only left council with two options — vote for or against adoption of the bylaws.
In what was a predictable vote, the bylaws passed 4-3 with councillors Muri, Mike Little, and Doug MacKay-Dunn dissenting. A chorus of boos erupted in council chambers immediately afterwards.
Some attendees also shouted at council members, “Pitiful procedure” and “shame on you.” Walton scolded them, saying, “There is an incredible display of disrespect in this chamber.”
Outside council chambers, Corrie Kost, a 40-year resident of Edgemont Village and longtime DNV council watcher couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“The seniors’ complex is far too big, far beyond what was envisioned in the OCP,” said Kost.
Many Edgemont residents have echoed Kost’s sentiments on the scale of the project, agreeing that it would change the character of the neighbourhood. The plans call for a 44-foot building housed on a parcel of land equivalent to the size of six single-family lots.
Knowing there were people who still wanted to speak to council about the proposal was concerning to Muri.
“I think it’s council’s responsibility to listen to everybody that wants to be heard,” said Muri. “Because clearly there are more concerns.”
Her motion would have been to rescind the bylaws back to third reading and open the public hearing again.
“I think it warranted a second look this time,” said Muri.
John Kuharchuk, senior vice-president of development for Edgemont Senior Living, was also in attendance during Monday’s council meeting.
“Well, I can say that we are delighted with the result,” Kuharchuk told The Outlook, adding, the decision spoke to the need for alternative forms of seniors’ housing in the community.
When asked how the public’s input factored into the final proposal, Kuharchuk said, “Well, that’s extensive, actually.”
He rattled off a list of modifications that have been made since the public consultation process: the building size has been reduced from four to three storeys, the parking area has increased by 40 per cent — and a public plaza has been added at Woodbine Drive and Highland Boulevard.
“In listening to the results we also learned there was a strong need for continuum of care,” said Kuharchuk.
As part of a housing agreement with the district, Edgemont Senior Living must provide a minimum of 15 assisted-living units.
Brian Bydwell, DNV general manager of planning, properties and permits, outlined the next steps in the application process.
A development permit application will include more detailed information about the form and character of the project. Edgemont Senior Living has already submitted this information to district staff and it is expected to go before council later this fall.
“We expect the development permit to be moved quite quickly — within the next couple weeks,” said Kuharchuk.
Once that permit is issued Edgemont Senior Living will have two years to start construction on the project. Kuharchuk is anticipating the facility will open in late 2015.
Monthly rent costs, including meals, are projected to range from $3,500 to $5,250, depending on the size of the unit.
Edgemont Senior Living will offer Edgemont Village and Upper Capilano residents first crack at the units, during a 90-day advance registration period.