I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season with your family and friends. Before we get too far into the exciting year ahead, I wanted to briefly highlight progress that Council made on its eight Priorities in 2017:
Public Services & Municipal Hall Project – In addition to improving everyday operational efficiencies, including moving many District staff back to Municipal Hall from remote locations, the new building has been built to withstand a major seismic event so that first responders can perform their critical roles in an emergency. It was completed on time and on budget, and early feedback from residents about the look and feel of the new police building, customer service hub, and atrium has been very positive. I encourage you to drop by for a visit.
Built Form, Housing & Neighbourhood Character – Under an innovative Local’s First Program approved by Council, almost 30% of the units sold in the new Sewell’s development in Horseshoe Bay went to West Vancouver residents looking for homes to live in. This unique initiative caught the attention of other municipalities, including the City of Vancouver and District of North Vancouver, and they will be reviewing and refining it as they take steps to address the housing affordability crisis in the region. On the demand side, the Executive of the Union of B.C. Municipalities endorsed WV Council’s Housing Affordability Motion, which calls on both the Federal and Provincial governments to take steps to discourage speculation in residential real estate, and ensure that investors pay a fair share of Provincial and Federal taxes.
Traffic & Transportation – Increasing traffic and congestion continue to impact residents, commuters, businesses, students, services and quality of life on the North Shore. While there is no simple solution to this complex issue, Council is taking these concerns very seriously and has been actively working with our North Shore counterparts to improve vehicular, public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Just this week, Council received an invitation from Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver- Lonsdale to participate in an Integrated North Shore Transportation Planning Project “which seeks to drive collaboration that will result in transportation solutions for the North Shore in the short term, while developing a unified and collective cross-jurisdictional long-term North Shore transportation vision”. Commuter and recreational pedestrians and cyclists will have a safer route over an integral component of the Spirit Trail with the recent approval by Council of a $700,000 contribution towards improvements to the Wardance Bridge over the Capilano River, leveraging a $1.2 million dollar contribution from the owners of Park Royal. And the District recently competed the critical western link of the Spirit Trail along Royal Avenue into Horseshoe Bay.
Ambleside Waterfront and Town Centre – There is more open park space on our Ambleside waterfront with the demolition of four of the remaining homes pursuant to the Waterfront Acquisition Policy initiated in 1975. Complementing this work, the Ambleside Dundarave Business Improvement Association continued to gather steam this year with colourful new street banners for “Dundarave Village” and “Ambleside Beach”, an art walk during the Harmony Arts Festival, and innovative plans for wayfinding, placemaking, and branding that will engage both residents and visitors alike.
Official Community Plan Review – The important work of updating our 14-year-old OCP has so far engaged over 600 individuals and generated almost 350 “Big Ideas” for the future of West Vancouver in the areas of Housing, Transportation, Social Well-being, the Economy and the Environment. The local area plan for the Marine Drive/Taylor Way intersection has been completed, and we have begun the engagement process for the Ambleside Town Centre one. A draft of the OCP Policy Chapters is anticipated by mid-2018, with local area plans to follow as they are completed.
Arts, Culture & Heritage – A steering committee of stakeholders, business and community leaders, and District staff has completed a draft of the new Arts & Culture Strategy, which will go to the public and stakeholders for review prior to presentation to Council in March or April, and if approved will provide a framework to guide Council’s decision-making over the next five years. This strategy will be bolstered by a newly-established public art fund, which requires sustainable financial contributions from the annual budget and new development applications. Following the success of several other recent Heritage Revitalization Projects, the historic Rush House at 12th Street and Jefferson Avenue will be restored, and a garden suite and two laneway houses will be added to the property to provide much-needed new homes for downsizers and families.
Natural Environment & Climate Action – As the Council Liaison to the Interim Tree Bylaw Working Group, I have observed first hand the impressive and extensive work of the ten citizen members of this group since March. Their recent community survey had the highest return rate of any survey in the District’s history, and will form the basis of final recommendations to Council this spring.
Fiscal Sustainability & Municipal Services – In 2016 the District took a critical step to address the maintenance needs of West Vancouver’s $1 billion in aging infrastructure by creating a 20-year Asset Management Plan, reserve and levy. Last year Council was able to put in place funds for long-overdue repairs and upgrades to key facilities including the public washrooms in Ambleside, John Lawson, Dundarave and Whytecliff parks, and the Aquatic Centre change rooms. As part of the 2018 budget process, our new on-line Citizen Budget simulator went live in December and offers an easy, interactive way for you to see how your tax dollars are allocated among services based on your property assessment, and to share your priorities on proposed new community assets. Visit www.westvancouver.ca/budget to access this tool, and obtain details on the upcoming Budget Information Meetings on January 15th and January 17th.
Legal Dispute with CN Rail – On December 28, 2017, the Canadian Transportation Agency (“CTA”) issued a decision regarding the District’s application. The CTA has agreed with West Vancouver that the CTA has legal jurisdiction over the Centennial Seawalk. However, the CTA has decided to wait before making its final determination until the Supreme Court of B.C. rules on CN’s lawsuit regarding the terminated BC Rail leases.
The District’s application before the CTA and CN’s lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court are still underway. The District will continue to pursue the CTA application, defend against CN’s lawsuit and use all available means to protect the District’s interests. While we’re pleased with the CTA’s jurisdictional ruling, there are still a number of issues to be determined which will take time.
With my legal background I was very interested to attend the oral hearings in October, and will continue to closely monitor this issue, but I’m not able to comment any further as this is before the Courts. For further information please visit our website at https://westvancouver.ca/news/update-cn-dispute-regarding-centennial-seawalk-0.
I have really enjoyed serving you on Council for the past six years, and look forward to another productive year as we work together to make West Vancouver the best it can be! Please feel free to share this update with others who may be interested.