Developer Ryan Beedie is taking the City of Vancouver to court in a bid to revive a controversial development project at 105 Keefer Street in Chinatown that whipped up fierce opposition from social housing advocates before the city’s Development Permit Board sunk the proposal in November 2017.
Beedie (Keefer Street) Holdings Ltd. filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court on August 16 to set aside the Development Permit Board’s 2-1 decision refusing the company’s development application for 105 Keefer and 544 Columbia Street.
The decision, the company claims, was made contrary to city staff recommendations in a “politically charged environment” where there was “hostility” toward the proposal that saw activists disrupt events and vandalize open-house signs.
“Due to the intensive process of vetting by City staff, the Urban Design Panel and the Development Permit Advisory Panel to ensure compliance with all applicable by-laws, policies and guidelines, there had not, in recent memory prior to the DP Board’s refusal which is the subject matter of this Petition, been a single instance of outright refusal of a DP application,” the petition states.
Before seeking a development permit, the company had unsuccessfully attempted to rezone the lands for greater density, sparking a wave of opposition that saw 300 speakers decrying the proposal at a hearing, some of them saying “there should be no further development whatsoever at the Property or in the neighbourhood.”
“In the end, City Council refused the Prior Rezoning Application, a decision which the Petitioner respected,” the petition states.
Beedie forged on with the development plans despite the city’s refusal to rezone the lands, and submitted a formal development permit application in June 2017 for a nine-storey mixed-use building with 111 units, and one floor of retail. City staff, the Urban Design Panel and the Development Permit Advisory Panel all recommended issuing the permit, but public opposition remained fervent.
As well, days before the final hearing on the company’s application, Vancouver council endorsed “potential UNESCO world heritage site status for the Chinatown Historic Area,” which coincided with an initiative to “downzone” the area, reducing building heights and introducing maximum floor space rations.
Despite findings that Beedie’s application was in compliance, the Development Permit Board shot down the application 2-1, with board members giving vague reasons for their refusal, the petition states. The board also “did not clarify what should be done for any new DP Application to succeed.”
“Even in the absence of the Downzoning Initiative, both the Petitioner and City staff would then be put in the position of having to guess wildly at what the DP Board might have considered acceptable from a design perspective and be put to the time and considerable expense of preparing a new application ‘in the dark,’” the petition states. “The result was gross procedural unfairness to the Petitioner.”
Beedie seeks an order to set aside the DP Board’s refusal and an order to grant the permit, or and order compelling the city “to specify precisely what changes must make so that a DP will be granted.”
The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court and the city had not responded in court by BIV’s press time.