Purcell woods redevelopment plan taken to public hearing

Two bylaw amendments needed to proceed with construction of student housing

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

In order for Woodbridge Northwest Communities to make progress in its plans to build an on-campus residence for Capilano University, the real estate development company will need two bylaw amendments.

The dissolution of the strata for the townhouses at 1923-1959 Purcell Way was approved, and Woodbridge’s application for redevelopment was reviewed in July. In September, they held a public information session at CapU, and on Nov. 21 their request for two bylaw changes went to a public hearing at Municipal Hall.

District Council took input from the public on the proposed amendment of two bylaws, the first of which concerned the District of North Vancouver Official Community Plan Bylaw.

The proposed amendment of the official community plan land use designation called for a strip of land, about 1,200 square feet lining Greg Lee Way that is currently forested area, to be re-designated from residential for low-density apartments to institutional, where Woodbridge intends to erect a student residence. The second bylaw proposed to amend the district zoning bylaw and rezone the lot from a low-rise residential zone to a comprehensive development zone. Architect Bryce Rositch’s rendition of the new complex shows a diverse mix of units, including townhouses, a six-floor condo and a student residence building on the fringes of the lot, facing the CapU campus.

Currently, the section of Purcell Woods designated for redevelopment has 90 units. In early 2014 there was a structural failure at one of the buildings. Resident Henry Brown noted that it had caused heating and buckling in their flooring and cracks in his drywall. Repairs to the entire strata complex would have put each unit on the hook for approximately $100,000 over the following five to 10 years before the cost of asbestos removal was factored in.

The response to Woodbridge’s development proposal from members of the public, including members of the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU), President Paul Dangerfield and Purcell Woods residents, was overwhelmingly positive. Several residents voted to sell because they felt the exorbitant repair costs would’ve been financially detrimental. Woodbridge’s Chief Financial Officer, Kevin Johnston, told the council that they intend to provide buyback incentives for the residents who have sold their property, amounting to between $20,000 to 30,000 with six months’ worth of free rent and a further six months’ worth of discounted rent factored in. Residents can also choose to put the value of the discounted rent towards buying back property.

However, the density of the lot would more than double, going from 90 units to 184 with the student residence included. James Lewis, a resident of the neighbouring strata, questioned how the ow of traffic would be affected on a narrow road like Purcell Way with a bus turnaround at the end.

Furthermore, the proposed residence will only be able to house 60 students, even though Woodbridge proposed making eight of the 10 house units have lock off units, which can be divided into more than one section and made available to students. CSU Organizer Patrick Meehan prepared a business analysis with the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) for the “Where’s The Housing?” campaign, which estimated a minimum of 520 students could actually be housed on CapU property.

District Council will deliberate, taking into account what members of the community said during the hearing, and expects to return with their conclusion on Dec. 11.

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