Court orders City of Vancouver to reconsider rejected tower at 105 Keefer St.

A controversial Chinatown condo development rejected by the City of Vancouver more than five years ago may have another shot at life.

Vancouver’s Development Permit Board voted down the proposed 111-unit development at 105 Keefer St. in November 2017 — the fifth and final time the proposal failed to win approval.

But on Friday, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered the board to take another look at the proposal.

In the ruling, posted Monday, Justice Jan Brongers dismissed developer Beedie Holdings Ltd.’s arguments that it had been denied procedural fairness and that the permit board lacked the authority to scuttle the project.

But she found the board’s decision was nevertheless “substantively unreasonable” because the board had failed to provide adequate reasons for its decision.

In its petition for judicial review, Beedie argued that there had not been a single recent case in which the Development Permit Board had outright refused a permit. Instead, the board’s standard practice was to approve applications, subject to conditions.

The developer argued that accordingly, the board was obligated to explain why it had departed from this longstanding practice, and that since it hadn’t, its decision was unreasonable.

The city denied there had been any departure from past practice, and that the board had provided a detailed enough explanation for its decision to meet its legal requirements.

The ruling notes Beedie provided an affidavit showing that of 111 permit applications considered between 2012 and 2017, Beedie’s was the only one that was rejected outright. Other applications, had been permitted, though with conditions that had to be satisfied before the permit was granted.

Brongers concluded that the board’s Nov. 6, 2017, decision to reject the DP Application without indicating what conditions Beedie would have needed to obtain the board’s approval was “a departure from past practice that violated Beedie’s legitimate expectations.”

“In these circumstances, the Board had a burden to explain and justify this departure in its reasons,” Brongers ruled.

“However, I have searched in vain for such a justificatory explanation in the transcript of the Board members’ remarks made at the November 6, 2017 meeting, and in the November 16, 2017 letter to Beedie that confirmed the denial of the DP Application. In the absence of such an explanation, I find that the Board’s decision was unreasonable.”

Bronger’s ruling ordered the Development Permit Board to reconsider Beedie’s application, and further ordered the board to review whether the project warrants approval, approval with conditions, or outright refusal.

If the board were to refuse the project, she ruled, it must provide “detailed and sufficient reasons to transparently explain why such a refusal is justified.”

Beedie originally bought the land in 2013 for $16.2 million, but the project faced community opposition from the get-go.

Hundreds of speakers descended on public hearings, and opponents argued the project was too tall, the units were too expensive, and that the development would change the look and feel of the neighbourhood.

Between 2014 and the final Development Permit Board vote in 2017, Bedie submitted four failed rezoning applications for the mixed-use tower project four other times.

In June 2017, council voted against a version of the project that included a 12-storey tower with about two dozen units set aside for low-income seniors.

The version rejected that November was reduced in size to nine from 12 storeys, meaning Beedie only needed a development permit, and not a rezoning.

The final rejected proposal also removed a proposed 25 units of social housing.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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