WEN to Mayor on model West End development (Darling House, 1090 Nicola) that respects heritage, zoning, character of West End (in Council June 16)

West End Neighbours submitted the following letter to Mayor and Council on a topic for public hearing on June 16,  2011 — the Heritage Designation and Development Proposal of the Darling House at 1090 Nicola Street. We feel this is a highly important case for many reasons. Details are below. Download here: WEN, Council, Public Hearing on 1090 Nicola (16-June-2011) web







June 15, 2011

His Worship Mayor Gregor Robertson & Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Re:  1090 Nicola Street – “Darling House” Heritage Designation & Development Proposal
Dear Mayor Robertson and City of Vancouver Councillors:

At the Public Hearing of June 16, 2011, Council will hear input on the proposed heritage designation of the house at 1090 Nicola Street.  The designation is being proposed as part of a townhouse re-development proposal on the site.  Please accept this letter as input on the proposed bylaw amendment and heritage designation.

West End Neighbours (WEN) supports the protection of this West End heritage gem, and supports the nature of the re-development proposed in conjunction with the heritage designation.  The proposed heritage restoration and townhouse construction stand as an example of development that respects existing zoning and existing West End development guidelines and will be an asset to the neighbourhood.

The 1905 Darling House has been noted as being of heritage value for its Arts and Crafts architectural details and materials.  The fact that is was occupied by members of the Darling family from the time it was built until less than 10 years ago is testament to its place in the West End.

WEN is pleased to see the Policy Report to Council’s review of surrounding development densities in the Policy Report, and the summary of average surrounding densities at 1.65 FSR.  WEN hopes that this type of documentation will become a standard item in reports regarding development proposals.

Further, the Policy Report written by City staff notes that the maximum proposed height of 44 feet is 16 feet less than the outright permitted height of 60 feet.  As the outright permitted height in the West End “RM” zones has been a topic of some discussion recently, it is refreshing to see the outright permitted height of 60 feet documented explicitly.  Further, the Policy Report clearly indicates that the RM-5 Zoning permits an outright density of 1.00 FSR which the Director of Planning may increase the density to 1.50 FSR having regard to the design of the proposal, the impacts it creates, the results of notification, and all applicable policies and guidelines, as provided for in Section 4.7 of the RM-5, RM-5A, RM-5B, and RM-5C District Schedule.

The overall proposed density of 1.49 FSR is consistent with the site’s RM5 zoning and a supportable density in light of the fact that the heritage house is proposed to be relocated to the south-west corner of the property and rehabilitated in conjunction with new townhouse units. The proposed variances to the zoning bylaw regarding front/sideyard setbacks and height envelope are reasonable considerations for the heritage designation proposed.

(A question for Council to consider is why the Darling House can be moved, rehabilitated, and designated for heritage preservation under the existing zoning – without a Heritage Revitalization Agreement – but an 18 story tower with a 1.5 FSR density bonus was suggested as necessary to support heritage preservation for the Legg House at 1245 Harwood Street.)

As documented in the comments from the public, some residents noted that the City’s website included no materials regarding the proposed application.  Regardless of whether the notification processes were deemed to be undertaken in a manner consistent with the City’s policies, practices, and requirements, WEN suggests that providing materials on the City’s website would be an appropriate way to communicate information regarding all proposed developments of this type.  In a world of electronic access to information, there should be no need for the public to travel to City Hall to review project plans.

As noted in the Policy Report, The West End has seen considerable development over the years.  The heritage designation and development project of the site at 1090 Nicola Street stands as an example of the type of re-development that through “gentle intensification” has created over 5,000 new dwelling units in the West End since the RM zoning schedule was adopted in the late 1980s.  Overall, the subject development at 1090 Nicola Street constitutes a quality approach to creating alternative housing options while respecting neighbourhood character.  The developer and designers of this project are to be commended for creating a sensitive development proposal that protects intact an important piece of West End heritage, and does so while complying with the density provisions of the existing RM5 zoning.

We would like to point out that the Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee (WEMAC) failed to notice and discuss this application. It is not listed on the WEMAC web page as a current application, and was not covered in any meeting. We believe that the Mayor should urge the Committee to become familiar with this project and similar ones in order to have a better understanding of alternative kinds of development possible here.

In closing, WEN supports the proposed heritage designation and the proposed townhouse development at this site, and encourages City Council to endorse the proposal. It is consistent with the WEN petition signed by over 11,500 people, saying “No Rezoning Without A Comprehensive Plan.”


R. Helten
President, West End Neighbours (WEN)

Group contact email: info@westendneighbours.com

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