Sunday, May 24, 2009

Georgia Straight article

North Vancouver amalgamation would solve a regional problem

The District of North Vancouver has gotten a raw deal because of the way municipal boundaries were drawn many years ago.
The nearby City of North Vancouver includes the Lonsdale  business strip as well as Lonsdale Quay.  The city  can rely on businesses to cover part of its tax base, which means homeowners aren't the only geese being plucked at tax time.
The district, on the other hand, doesn't have a central business district. There are shopping areas in Deep Cove, Edgemont Village, and Lynn Valley. But for municipal tax collectors, none of these compare with Metrotown in Burnaby or the Number 3 Road strip in Richmond or even Kerrisdale in Vancouver.
The District of North Vancouver  has a strategy to address this. The Lower Lynn Concept Plan could turn this part of the district into a North Shore equivalent of Kerrisdale--a neighbourhood with lots of residents, lots of jobs, and yes, some office development.
But Metro Vancouver's draft regional growth strategy could undermine these objectives, according to a staff report going to the district council tomorrow (May 25)  night. Metro Vancouver wants to encourage office development in urban centres, and not in quaint Lynn Valley.
Lynn Valley is close to a regional bus hub, Phibbs Exchange, but it's nowhere near any rapid-transit lines.
It's going to be interesting to see how this situation develops. In the past, the City of Surrey and the City of Richmond sometimes played the role of regional rogues, going against the wishes of regional district planners.
Will the District of North Van under its suave and ecologically inclined mayor, Richard Walton, take over this role in the future by pushing ahead with incentives for office development in Lynn Valley?
When he was first elected mayor, Walton spoke favourably about amalgamating the District of North Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver. Perhaps if Metro Vancouver put pressure on the provincial government to force amalgamation, district politicians wouldn't have such a big financial incentive to turn Lynn Valley into a major commercial centre.
Of course, Premier Gordon Campbell could easily force an amalgamation through provincial legislation. The two municipal governments already share the cost of arts and cultural grants, recreation, the fire department, and the RCMP.
It's far too early to suggest that  amalgamation will ever occur. But  it could address the  regional district's  potential concerns about two municipal governments in North Vancouver each trying to boost their tax bases by stimulating office and retail development in separate areas.

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