Street-level crypto, gold sellers limited in West Van

The changes are intended to create more vibrant commercial areas in West Vancouver’s Ambleside and Dundarave neighbourhoods

Crypto currency exchanges, gold and jewlery buyers, and hawkers of “non-fungible tokens” are among the businesses West Vancouver councillors say they’d like to see banished from the street and kicked upstairs in key commercial areas of the municipality.

Those businesses, along with mortgage brokers, income tax services, bookkeepers and insurances companies, were added this week to a list of financial businesses council has said they’d like to see limited along the street in Ambleside and Dundarave.

Those services join a list of other business types – including doctors’ offices, veterinary clinics, dog groomers and walkers, pharmacies, fitness and esthetics studios, business and commercial schools – which West Vancouver council previously told staff it wanted restricted to taking up no more than 20 per cent of each block at street level in Ambleside and Dundarave commercial areas.

Council has indicated it wants those businesses limited to no more than five in the Ambleside commercial area and only one in Dundarave.

The move is an expansion of restrictions already in place in West Van that limit several other kinds of businesses including nail salons, real estate offices and money exchanges.

Changes aimed at encouraging vibrant commercial core

The latest changes are intended to encourage vibrancy in the district’s walkable commercial areas, said Coun. Christine Cassidy, who introduced the motion back in November to have staff draft bylaws further limiting the number of certain types of public-facing businesses allowed at street level.

Council now has the option of withholding business permits to applicants whose businesses conflict with the proposed zoning.

Cassidy said while dental and doctors’ offices and pharmacies have been increasing at street level, those businesses aren’t the kind that encourage people to linger and breathe life into commercial areas.

Some concerns have been expressed about the proposed changes.

Concerns about medical clinics on second floors

According to West Vancouver Fire and Rescue, in the past 15 years they have responded to about 18 requests per year for emergency assistance from medical clinics, with more than 70 per cent of those in ground floor offices. According to information supplied by the fire department, in many buildings, elevators aren’t big enough for stretchers, so firefighters might have to carry patients downstairs or have them sit upright if medical offices were on second floors. Street level offices are also easier for ambulances to find than upper floor offices, a report to council noted.

Cassidy stressed in a written report to council, however, that the change won’t impact medical clinics occupying the ground floors of nearby streets that run parallel to Marine Drive.

On Monday, Coun. Nora Gambioli asked her council colleagues Cassidy and Scott Snider how they came up with the list of businesses unwelcome at street level.

“Why are these ones chosen to not occupy more than 20 per cent?” she asked. “I’m not an expert on this and I’m not aware that councillors Cassidy and Snider were either.”

Gambioli added she doubts businesses potentially affected know about the new restrictions.

Cassidy said she and Snider “just used our two legs and walked up and down the street” to see which businesses were monopolizing the street.

“They are choking the life out of our business community,” she said.

Cassidy added there’s nothing stopping businesses from moving to a second floor. “We’re not asking them to leave the community,” she said. “They can go upstairs.”

No street-level retail space for lease

Maureen O’Brien of the Ambleside Dundarave Business Improvement Area told council local businesses are in favour of the restrictions, in hopes it will contribute to a more vibrant commercial area.

Businesses on Bellevue Avenue are doing well, she noted, and there are none of the less desirable uses occupying street space there.

Currently there is no available ground floor retail space for lease in Ambleside or Dundarave, said O’Brien, so uses like money exchanges are pushing out retail businesses that might contribute to a livelier commercial area.

Once the bylaws bringing in the change are officially passed by council, businesses that don’t comply with the new rules would become legally non-conforming and would be allowed to continue in their current location. The changes would only impact new tenants moving in to those retail spaces.

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