Horseshoe Bay resident John Noble felt joy and relief when he heard the council had rejected the rezoning for the former church site on Wellington Avenue.
But there is also anxiety underpinning that triumph.
Noble was among those who organised, rallied and led a number of community members against the Tantalus Gardens project. He is concerned the push for density in Horseshoe Bay would continue. The Local Area Planning process, he says, is another ruse to push development in the area.
“The next battle you will see involves the Horseshoe Bay Local Area Plan, the LAP. The District plans to change the border for zoning, to push the Horseshoe Bay border further into Whytecliff and Gleneagles, and to gobble up St. Monica’s church and the neighbouring Tantalus Park,” he says.
The majority of the community, he says, would be against change of existing zoning borders.
For now, however, Noble is just happy to know the hard work he and others had put in opposing the project eventually convinced four West Vancouver councillors to give voice to their concerns and vote against the project.
“It has been hard work for the whole year. We wrote letters, started a Facebook page and paid Canada Post to send letters to 185 homes. We spoke to neighbours and people out for a walk or pushing the prams. Horseshoe Bay is a very special place and we don’t want to lose the countryside feel,” he says.
Noble says people showing up and conveying their views to the council eventually made a difference.
“Raising awareness about it also made a difference. Now the developers watching this know that there are areas in the community where there is going to be a pushback,” he said.
Sheona McDonald too is pleased at the decision, although she says the decision just doesn’t feel like a victory. “The Mayor’s behaviour wasn’t the most professional behaviour considering how she pushed the developer’s agenda. It has restored some faith in democracy but the whole process was daunting and it just didn’t feel clean,” she says.
McDonald says she was apathetic in the beginning, but then eventually started a petition to oppose the project that eventually garnered over 1,000 signatures.
She says she initially didn’t pay attention, but was surprised to hear the suggestion that over 80 per cent of the community supported the project.
“I thought that can’t be right and if it is then I’m really missing the mark. I put the petition out to ask that question and there was a landslide of people concerned with this development,” she says.
McDonald, along with other community members, emailed and called councillors, spent time researching the OCP and the history of the church as a meeting space, wrote and re-wrote emails and documents and organised people on the project.
Joining her was Horseshoe Bay resident Kevin Faw who even offered to buy the land from the developer so it could be reimagined as a communal space, just the way it was intended.
Together, they launched a website to present a concrete vision of what the space might look like. McDonald is happy that the council listened to residents, but the process has left a bitter aftertaste and anxiety about future developments in the community.
“It seems like throwing a pebble in the dam,” she says.