Vancouver voted down rental townhouses next to a hospice. Now, there’ll be a mansion instead

Click to play video: 'More controversy over development plans for Granville Street lot'
More controversy over development plans for Granville Street lot
WATCH: More controversy over development plans for Granville Street lot – Jul 3, 2019

The rejection of an upscale rental townhouse project next to a Vancouver hospice has led to a new round of controversy.

Vancouver city council shot down a rezoning for a proposed 21-unit development at 4575 Granville St. late last month after a marathon public hearing.

Now, the property owners say that instead of building a multi-unit project, they will build a 12,000-square-foot mansion instead.

The shift has drawn swift condemnation from housing activists, who say that in the city’s tight rental market, every single unit counts.

“The people who are going to suffer from this are not going to be the 21 families who were going to move in,” said Stuart Smith with Abundant Housing Vancouver.

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“Those 21 families will find a place, but they’re going to push people down the ladder 21 places, and at the bottom, 21 families are going to fall out.”

WATCH: Vancouver hospice worried about new development

Click to play video: 'Vancouver hospice worried about new development'
Vancouver hospice worried about new development

Vancouver Hospice Society chair Stephen Roberts acknowledged that a large house was the “least popular” option for the site, but said it would have a much lower impact on the hospice’s clients than a townhouse complex.

He added that the hospice had suggested other options for the site, such as a pair of duplexes, and even offered to buy the property to build seniors housing.

“We know that [a mansion is] not really the best use of the land,” he said.
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“But it’s the developer and owners’ right to do what he wants, within the zoning.”

Prof. Tom Davidoff with the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business argued that it was another case of council acting to protect single-family zoning.

“This has been the position of council for a long time, to protect these single-family neighbourhoods and to be extremely sensitive to the affluent homeowners [who] oppose development near them,” he said.

The vote to reject the proposal split 7-4 on council and did not adhere to party lines. Councillors gave a variety of reasons for voting it down, including developer profits, high rents for the proposed units, concerns with the public consultation process and parking issues associated with the 32 spaces set to be included in the development.

Local developer Michael Geller, who is not involved with the project, disagreed, suggesting that the presence of the hospice made the rezoning application unique.

READ MORE: Vancouver hospice fights proposed townhouse development

The Vancouver Hospice Society had vocally opposed the development, which argued that it would have negative impacts on terminally ill patients and could force the facility to close temporarily.

Geller said the city needs to develop a solid community plan before it approves multi-unit projects in new neighbourhoods.

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“Even if this project got approved last week, it would probably be three or three and a half years before anyone was living there,” he said.

“The way this city works, the city could do a lot more by reviewing its procedures, accelerating the process.”

Global News has requested comment from the Vancouver Hospice Society on the new development proposal.

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