This is a tale of NIMBYism.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, a 7.6-acre vacant industrial site near the North Vancouver waterfront was considered the best location of a much-needed new bus depot to serve TransLink’s bus services across the North Shore.
The site was previously a rail yard for BC Rail, but there were fears in the mid-2000s by residents in the neighbourhood over the prospect of a surge in buses roaming through their streets, emitting air, noise, sound, and light pollution into their area.
As a result, this $40-million plan to provide North Vancouver with a new, expanded bus depot never materialized.
Then came a a proposal to redevelop the site into a Costco store. However, residents in the area complained once again, with traffic being their utmost concern.
Fast forward to 2018: North Vancouver is without its own bus depot, and West Vancouver’s bus depot has become overstretched – with little capacity to grow – to the extent that TransLink has taken over routes that were previously operated by the Blue Bus.
Facing the seemingly impossible and costly challenge of finding an appropriate replacement bus depot site that did not ignite the ire of residents, TransLink cancelled its new bus depot plans and in 2016 it closed its antiquated 73-year-old bus depot on Third Street at St. Davids Avenue.
Instead, buses that were previously housed at that facility are now stationed at the new Burnaby Transit Centre near Boundary Road and 1st Avenue. This means buses that serve routes on the North Shore are empty in the morning when they are traveling from Burnaby to North Vancouver over the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, and they are also empty again at night for their return trip to the depot.
All it takes is a traffic jam or an accident on the bridge to significantly restrain scheduled transit services on the North Shore.
So with both the bus depot and the Costco plans previously nixed, the site is now slated to become a new replacement sewage plant for the North Shore, replacing the existing, 1961-built Lions Gate Wastewater Plant below the north end of the Lions Gate Bridge.
Construction on the $700-million North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant began in late August of this year.
The site is framed by West 1st Street to the north, Pemberton Avenue to the east, Phillip Avenue to the west, and railways to the south. It is just north of Seaspan’s shipyards, west of North Shore Auto Mall, and about two kilometres east of the existing sewage treatment facility.
But this plant differs greatly from existing plants built decades ago, which effectively subdued much of the potential neighbourhood outcry against the project.
The new modern plant will be built with odour recovery and treatment technology, with any air released outside going through a scrubbing system before being discharged.
In fact, much of the exterior design features resemble the West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre than the facility on Iona Island, just north of Vancouver International Airport.
Unlike the existing plant under the bridge, the new plant will be enclosed inside a building with a translucent and glazed facade, green roof, and extensive planting along its edges with city streets.
There will also be extensive park-like public spaces, an extensive water feature, a visible district energy centre, and an education space
Metro Vancouver Regional District says the plant is needed to serve the 250,000 people who live in the City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and District of West Vancouver.
When the plant reaches completion in late-2020, the existing plant will be decommissioned and the land will return to the Squamish First Nation, which has been leasing the land to the Regional District.