Growing pains for Austin Heights

Coquitlam's Austin Heights is getting a lift thanks to a 20-year area plan that council adopted last year
— image credit: tri-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

More growing pains surfaced this week for an aging Coquitlam neighbourhood on the brink of rejuvenation.

At a public hearing on Monday, city council heard from a Charland Avenue resident who complained about plans for an 88-unit apartment block set to be built on the north side of her single-family home street.

The proposed development by Ledingham McAllister is to be constructed south of the Petro-Can gas station — located just outside the core for Austin Heights, which is densifying with high-rise buildings.

Last year, city council unanimously adopted a 20-year area plan calling for 2,500 more homes between Blue Mountain and Linton streets and Foster and Rochester avenues, with 15 sites designated for towers.

Beverley Sewers told council she fears the planned two four-storey condo blocks, spread over five lots, would lower property values, exacerbate traffic and on-street parking, and disrupt southside residents.

"I just don't understand," Sewers said. "It seems so inappropriate for the neighbourhood."

Other Charland Avenue residents also raised concerns about the development such as the massing close to detached houses and a potential opening of the dead-end road onto Lebleu Street, behind John B Pub.

Still, during the 90-minute public hearing, council heard from Charland property owners selling their land for the development, and others.

Former city planner Joe Sulmona, who owns 945 and 951 Charland Ave., which is west of the development site, said council set the bar last year when it allowed the Beedie Group to build a 19-storey, 133-unit landmark tower at Austin Heights' gateway at Blue Mountain Street and Austin Avenue and "we would suggest that the next major investment in the area should be even more striking," Sulmona said.

Coquitlam's manager of development services Raul Allueva said while the development doesn't meet the area's design guidelines of running north and south, city staff feel the building would fit well for Austin Heights as the medium-density building offers a good height transition as well as affordable housing — a comment echoed by Phil Johnston, who sold his Charland property for the proposed apartment block.

Afterwards, council granted second and third bylaw reading to rezone the five lots with Coun. Selina Robinson opposing. "I don't like the building," she said. "It's not the right building for the right place."

Councillors Neal Nicholson and Brent Asmundson were absent from the hearing and council meeting.

Last month, city council okayed a development permit for Safeway, which wants to replace the grocery store with a 56,402 sq. ft. building fronting Austin and six retail stores fronting Ridgeway Avenue. And McDonald’s also received a DP to upgrade its fast food eatery at 1131 Austin Ave., south of Ridgeway.


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