A Horseshoe Bay resident is urging West Vancouver citizens to sign a petition asking the council to save the site for St. Monica’s Church from redevelopment.
Quma, a development company, has applied to rezone the former church site for a 14-unit multi-family development called Tantalus Gardens on Wellington Avenue in Horseshoe Bay.
At a meeting on Monday, September 9, the council voted to give first reading to the development, moving it to the public hearing in October. Coun. Bill Soprovich’s was the only opposing vote.
Sheona McDonald, who started the petition, is concerned that redevelopment would mean loss of community space, an anxiety shared by many others in the community. She feels there is still time for the community to have an open discussion about what the alternatives for the site could be. One such alternative was proposed by Kevin Faw, a local citizen, who says he would be willing to buy the church site from the developer. McDonald says there is another local resident who is keen to purchase the space and retain it for community use.
“It is possible to push back and suggest a more modest development be put in. It is possible to ask that Mr. Nilsson be mandated to include community space in his development. There is still time to have discussion,” she says. Peter Nilsson is the owner of Quma.
McDonald doesn’t agree with the developer’s assertion that there is a broad community support for the proposal. In fact, she feels the district has been largely dismissive of their concerns and has engaged more with the developer than the community.
“It doesn’t matter how many people turn up, the concerns are disregarded. There are so many people in the neighbourhood who are passionate about this, but they are pushed out of the conversation. There is a lack of transparency in this process,” she says.
McDonald says the current proposal is too large for the four lots. She says the Local Area Plan for Horseshoe Bay needs to be developed before the development moves ahead. Most importantly, she feels that community space must be preserved in whatever development takes place.
Meanwhile, the council, with the exception of Bill Soprovich, agreed that the project needs to move to the public hearing stage for them to make a decision. “The project has been in the works for a year. Time is money, especially if you have invested $4 million to $5 million in land and you are spending $30,000 to $40,000 in financing cost. The applicant is entitled to a decision one way or the other,” said Coun. Craig Cameron.
Coun. Marcus Wong was also supportive of the project going to public hearing. “Sometimes, there can be a nice middle that can meet the objectives of the citizens as well as the council. It is not all or nothing that we should be using as a lens,” he said.
Coun. Peter Lambur was supportive of sending the project to public hearing. “In a perfect world, my preference would be to complete the Local Area Planning process and then consider this. But we may learn more about what the Local Area Plan wants to be in terms of neighbourhood character and density through the public hearing that will come.”
Coun. Sharon Thompson said there had been broad-based support from the community, although she acknowledged that there were concerns in the community. She said it was important for the project to get to public hearing so councillors can know what the community thinks about this.
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth said the project looked good to her. She commended the developer for working very hard with the community. “The data may not be perfect. There may be some errors, but it is pretty compelling. Haven’t seen a project where the developer has worked so hard. Council has actually seen over a hundred letters of support and two letters of opposition,” she said.
Coun. Soprovich suggested the developer sat with the staff and work within the boundaries of the Local Area Plan and come with better alternatives on what the project would look like. He voted against the project moving to public hearing.
The public hearing for the project has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 8, at 7 pm.