Parking the rub with 81 townhouses

A controversial bid to build 81 stacked townhomes on a dead-end street failed this week after a tie vote by Coquitlam city council.

On Monday, half of council okayed the rezoning of 606 to 618 Langside Ave., saying the design details around the proposed development could be hashed out later while the other half cited problems with on-street parking.

With Coun. Brent Asmundson absent, the vote was tied and, therefore, defeated.

At a public hearing earlier that night, a Langside Avenue homeowner spoke against rezoning the six properties, located east of the Burquitlam Park and mall. “There’s not enough parking now on the street,” Nathan Jordan said, noting the city recently re-configured Langside with a cul-de-sac that cut out part of his front yard and driveway.

With rapid transit coming up nearby North Road, Jordan said he fears commuters will also squeeze out Langside residents’ parking spots (the street already has a 29-unit apartment block).

Applicant John Ritchie of Springbank Development Corp. told council the proposed development would have 90 secured parking spaces — although the bylaw calls for 113 spots — and 16 visitor spaces, an allocation that was green-lighted in a traffic study the company commissioned.

Under the Burquitlam Neighbourhood Plan, up to a 30% reduction in parking spaces is permitted as public transportation is close by and many residents don’t have cars, said Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning.

“We like fewer parking spots [in multi-family dwellings] as long as it doesn’t burden on-street parking,” said Don Violette of the Burquitlam Community Association.

During the council meeting, Coun. Mae Reid, who chairs the city’s land use committee, voiced concern that the planned townhomes would cram out the current homeowners and tenants. “This is a huge, massive development on a little street,” she said, adding infill has to be “sensitive.”

But Coun. Doug Macdonell countered Burquitlam will change considerably over the next few years with the Evergreen Line and the city needs to densify to support it. “I’m concerned about the message we are sending to developers,” he said. “We are going to back down instead of working with them.”

Coun. Neal Nicholson said he, too, wants to work on the townhouse proposal with the applicant but “right now, it’s going to look like the worst part of the west end” if it’s approved.

Still, Mayor Richard Stewart argued rezoning the six properties is the “appropriate” move as parking issues can be resolved during the development permit stage. And a reduction of parking spots for multi-family homes — especially those around transit hubs — is something council needs to take a hard look at, saying, “We need to start talking about maximum parking spaces.”

Coun. Selina Robinson suggested the city consider “resident-only” signs in transit-oriented neighbourhoods.

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