(Updated) Was the Arbutus Ridge development proposal approved on Oct 22nd? What was rejected? Was the bowling alley saved? What happened? In effect, the popular bowling alley got a temporary reprieve, but its fate is still not certain, as the developer must now consider its options based on the conditional approval and lower height limit. Some media reports that the bowling alley has been spared don’t have the facts right. Below we’ll try to set the record straight and break down the changes that were outlined by the Development Permit Board. Kent Munro, Assistant Director of Planning explains the decision in the following video:
Here’s the translation: A development was approved, but with a lower 4-storey height (45′ / 13.8m) and other changes were made to bring it closer in line with the typical development form under the C-2 zoning and guidelines used in other parts of the city. The bowling alley would be lost under this scenario. The DP Board said that they are unable to ensure a specific land use like a bowling alley or theatre. However, there was one little victory for the community in the lower height limit imposed on the site. The decision also buys more time for the residents and bowling alley supporters to consider their options, and also for the developer to reflect on whether they wish to pursue a development with the tighter conditions imposed by the DP Board. The same logic on not awarding extra height was, however, not applied to density. The maximum “discretionary” Floor Space Ratio of 2.5 was approved (up from the 0.75 FSR permitted “outright”). Had a reduction in density also been imposed it could have provided even more incentives for the developer to negotiate with the community in the future (i.e., for an amenity use like a bowling alley or theatre).
The ball is clearly in the applicant’s court. Cressey Development can resubmit an updated building design that conforms to the new requirements placed under the terms of the approval. They can also approach council and submit a rezoning proposal to change the zoning for one that allows greater height (such as C3A or CD-1). Or they can consider their other options. Even if Cressey does choose to continue with a lower 4-storey form, a future development would still be contingent on the sale of public land (a 7′ x 220′ portion of the parking lot along Arbutus Street currently owned by the city) that would require Council’s approval. Three members of Vancouver City Council were sitting with the residents during the review. NPA Councillors George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball, and Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr all listened intently to the panel’s deliberations. The comments made by the voting members of the Development Permit Board (City employees Kent Munro, David McLellan and Jerry Dobrovolny) were partly encouraging. They agreed that the discretionary height for the proposed building had not been earned, and sided with the residents on the idea that “neighbourliness” is not defined solely by building form and setback. While the overall height was reduced during the approval, the density was not. This failure to reduce density could prove to be the biggest disappointment of the day for the residents.