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Residents, design committee criticize proposed development
The Residences on Mathers faces sharp criticism from both neighbours and West Vancouver’s design review committee.
In a report to council on Monday, staff recommended the project’s developers reduce the number or size of units, provide adequate visitor parking, increase green space and “introduce more variety, materiality and roof forms.”
Council will look at the plans again only if these changes are made.
The housing development application, made by Matrix Architecture, consists of 11 houses and four duplexes and would take the place of the North Shore Unitarian Church and the historic Elliott House at 370 and 380 Mathers Ave. in the British Properties.
But the suggested changes likely won’t be enough to please 35 Hugo Ray residents who came out to a public meeting to show their opposition to the project.
“Staff believes that the neighbourhood will be reluctant to support anything greater than single-family homes on the site,” said Lisa Berg, senior community planner with the district.
However, she added, redevelopment of the site with an increase in density beyond single-family homes would fulfill objectives in the Official Community Plan, a guiding document used by the district.
Oliver Webbe, president of Darwin Construction, the applicant for the project, said the housing development would provide options for young families looking to move to West Vancouver and for older residents wishing to downsize to smaller, more manageable housing that will allow them to stay in the district.
“We are very proud to be working with such a well respected community group and look forward to improving our plan to reflect the feedback received from the local community and the West Vancouver Design Review Committee,” he told The Outlook.
Loss of neighbourhood character, traffic problems, lack of public transit and privacy problems were listed by neighbours as their biggest concerns. The Design Review Committee, on the other hand, was concerned with visitor parking, the style of buildings, the size and number of units and the fate of Elliott House, a heritage building built in 1960.
Despite opposition from nearby neighbours, council is willing to look at the developer’s plans if changes are made.
“I do think that there is a project in here that will strike an appropriate balance,” said Coun. Craig Cameron. “This is an opportunity we have to do something different in West Vancouver in housing than six huge houses on large lots.
“We talk-the-talk about wanting housing diversity in the community and this is a situation that allows us to either walk-the-talk or fail to do so.”
The 11 houses currently range from 2,106 to 2,457 square feet and the duplex units are 1,834 square feet — smaller than six typical houses that would normally fill the six lots.
An application in 2009 by another developer called for 48 units on the property. Objection to increased density led the number to be decreased to 33, then 24 and now 19 units.
“I think we can do much better in design and livability and the other issues that are mentioned,” said Coun. Mary-Ann Booth, adding, “I’m not hearing a lot of people asking for 7,500-square-foot houses… I am hearing a lot of people asking for smaller, affordable, downsizing-type units.”
Bob Thompson, who lives down the road from the proposed Residences on Mathers, told council that neighbours support alternative forms of housing such as basement suites and coach houses, but this development doesn’t fit the community.
In March, other neighbours told council that the church was moving out of the British Properties to make a “windfall” on the sale.
Church members, however, said the church site is too secluded and too old, especially for elderly parishioners who can’t make it because of inconvenient bus service or the lack of wheelchair accessibility.
“Nineteen homes right through the centre of our neighbourhood just doesn’t feel like character to us. It feels like invasion,” said Dave Lust.