Community vision proposed for divided public in the West End

West End

Vancouver city council will consider Tuesday whether to develop a “community vision” for the West End, as opposition mounts over its plans to build highrises in the neighbourhood.

COPE Coun. Ellen Woodsworth will put forward the motion Tuesday asking city staff to report back on the process for a proposed West End “community visioning process.”
The process would look at the needs and priorities of the community — something that hasn’t been done in the West End for more than 20 years even though it’s one of the city’s densest neighbourhoods.
So-called visions are already in place in areas such as Dunbar, Fraserview and Mount Pleasant. Woodsworth will also ask for a public meeting to be held to get public input on the neighbourhood’s needs, noting the recent debate has divided the community.“The public has been pitted against each other,” she said. “We need to call a meeting to get a sense of what people want.”

Her proposal follows council’s spot rezoning last December for a 20-storey project at Bidwell and Davie streets, ahead of several other requests for comprehensive highrise projects. These include a 22-storey residential tower for the 100-year-old St. John’s United Church site, at 1401 Comox St.
The projects, proposed under the city’s Short Term Incentives for Rental (STIR) program, are recommended for approval by city staff to secure more rental housing in the city. The city hasn’t built any rental housing in the West End for at least a decade.
But Woodsworth said the city has recently determined that there are rental units in the West End, and that those being built now aren’t necessarily affordable because they’re being offered at current market rates. As well, she said, the STIR program is not providing the community amenities that are needed in the West End.
West End residents have been vocally opposed to the developments, saying they will radically change the skyline and alter their protected views, and should not be rushed through without public consultation and a neighbourhood plan.
Residents have collected about 1,800 signatures on a petition entitled “No Rezoning without a Comprehensive Plan” that calls for Mayor Gregor Robertson to uphold the existing community-zoning guidelines for a maximum height of six storeys in the West End.
They claim the city is allowing developers to change the face of their neighbourhood by demolishing low-rise heritage buildings and churches to put up profitable highrise residential towers.
“Almost everyone can accept new construction and taller buildings, but it should be part of a comprehensive and transparent process,” said resident Randy Helton.
“This is what really outrages us: It’s such an extreme departure from the current rezoning guidelines. It really gets people upset.”

Helton said building more highrises in the West End would have major consequences for taxpayers owing to the impact on such infrastructure as electricity grids, roads and libraries.
“The taxpayers will pay the price of the increasing wear and tear on the infrastructure,” he said.
“There are so many things wrong with this.” Woodsworth said a public meeting on her motion will be scheduled for Thursday.     © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun


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