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West Vancouver shoots down Passive House tower

Council has rejected a proposal for what would have been the first-ever zero-emission, mass timber housing development in the district
Delta Group was hoping to build an eight-storey Passive House condo tower on Bellevue Avenue, but the District of West Vancouver council voted down the proposal October 18. | Delta Group

The District of West Vancouver, B.C. council has rejected a proposal for what would have been the first-ever zero emission, mass timber housing development in the district.

Delta Group had applied for a rezoning application to build seven strata units in an eight-storey condo at 2204 Bellevue Ave. The developer intended to build the project to Passive House standards, meaning it would have produced zero carbon emissions, thanks to solar panels, a geo exchange heat transfer system, heat recovery ventilators and insulation.

The project was up for first reading and to set a public hearing date at the general council meeting on October 18, 2021.

In 2017, council had adopted a policy of not considering new developments in areas until the local area plan (LAP) had been finished unless they “deliver significant social benefit,” as determined by council. In this instance, council had voted at its June 8, 2020, meeting to advance the proposal to the next steps: community consultation and staff review, prior to the Ambleside town centre LAP being complete.

“The reason for that was primarily for the mass carbon construction technology that’s proposed,” Michelle McGuire, senior manager of current planning and urban design for the district, reminded council.

“That was a specific OCP [official community plan] amendment that council adopted at the time when climate action changes were being brought forward to allow for proposals like the one before council tonight to advance low carbon construction technology in the district.”

District staff had supported the project as it complied with the district’s OCP, met environmental benefits and at eight storeys, it would have only been a “modest” addition to the area.

But the majority of council felt differently, this time around, and the application was voted down four to three. Councillors opposed raised concerns the building would be out of place for the area and that residents in nearby residences would lose their views. Questions were also raised about why the project did not offer affordable living options.

Coun. Nora Gambioli, Coun. Craig Cameron, and Mayor Mary-Ann Booth were the only ones in support of the “pioneer project” going to a public hearing.

“I think the point of advancing this proposal is compelling in terms of our thoughts on advancing low carbon construction, “Gambioli said. “As staff pointed out, this mass timber and Passive House construction would be a real kind of pioneer project for sustainable apartment design in West Vancouver.

Cameron added that this was “exactly the kind of ground-breaking project that we need to provide opportunities to in the community.”

Mayor Booth expressed disappointed the project wouldn’t be moving forward, given council’s previous decision to advance the proposal despite the LAP being incomplete.

“It would have been, I think, a little fairer to let the proponent know that before he spent a year of money on this project,” she said. “I'm disappointed that we're not going to be able to see this.”