When West Vancouver council votes on the Regional Growth Strategy on Monday (February 21), the politicians will also deal with a thorny issue around how high development can go up Hollyburn Mountain.
That's because the RGS enables West Vancouver to allow construction above the long-established 1,200-foot mark, according to regional planner Christina DeMarco. “It has definitely caused concern,” DeMarco told the Straight by phone.
The RGS outlines how the region will be developed until 2040, when it's expected that the Lower Mainland population will have increased by one million people. The RGS will replace the existing Livable Region Strategic Plan, the land-use document in place since 1996, after all municipalities have ratified the agreement.
West Vancouver has become a major flash point among the plan's critics, including Vancouver consultant Elizabeth Murphy. They claim the new strategy moves the existing 1,200-foot build-out limit higher up the mountain in West Vancouver, which will promote urban sprawl.
DeMarco, however, insisted that she has been “wrongly accused” by Murphy and downtown-based activist Randy Helten, founder of MetroVanWatch.ca, of misleading West Vancouver council and the Metro Vancouver board. Metro Vancouver directors approved the RGS on January 14.
Regarding what type of development would occur in West Vancouver above the line, DeMarco said, “Well that's up to West Vancouver. In the Regional Growth Strategy, it's called ”˜general urban'. So that could be residential neighbourhoods. They are possible. But it has been possible since 2004.”
Added DeMarco: “The way to explain it simply is to say that many concerned residents feel that West Vancouver has moved the urban-containment boundary up to a level that is contrary to existing municipal and regional policy. My answer to that comes from a document in 2004, and it's called the regional context statement.”
That statement is the “policy link” between West Vancouver's local official community plan and the Regional Growth Strategy, DeMarco explained.
“So when West Vancouver did their official community plan in 2004, they had to attach this regional context statement, and the board had to accept or not accept,” DeMarco said. “And in that document, the urban-containment boundary was raised above the 1,500-foot contour level. So that policy has been in place since 2004, and what I was trying to explain was we are not changing that line in any way in the Regional Growth Strategy.”
Murphy told the Straight by phone that she, Helten and others are not satisfied with DeMarco's explanation, and will press their concerns at the next Metro Vancouver regional-planning committee meeting on Friday (February 18).