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Foster bid bigger than planned
Eighteen homes on the south side of a Burquitlam block are now boarded up. A long fence down the top of the five acres is there for security. One of the properties even has an excavator in the front yard.
The Vancouver-based developer Intracorp has been assembling the land over the past two years and is waiting for the go-ahead from city hall to build 107 three-storey townhomes and a 99-unit, five-storey apartment block at 514-554 Foster Ave. and 636-640 Aspen St.
In 2011, when company representatives first came before council with a pre-application for 124 townhomes, the city temporarily halted the bid, saying it was "inconsistent" with the 2002 Burquitlam Neighbourhood Plan, a visioning document expected to get updated this fall.
Like other transitioning communities in Coquitlam — others include Austin Heights, Maillardville and City Centre — Burquitlam will feel the squeeze of significant growth in the coming years. And with the Evergreen Line coming up North Road in 2016, Burquitlam is poised to be a major transit hub, with stations at Lougheed Town Centre and near Burquitlam Plaza.
But with densification will come growing pains for residents, city council says.
At Monday's public hearing — before city council deferred its decision for one week to think more about Intracorp's request to change the land use along Foster — several Burquitlam residents stepped forward to voice their concerns.
Besides the extra traffic, on-street parking and noise the development would generate, the Burquitlam-Lougheed Neighbourhood Plan update hasn't started yet, they argued. Issues were also raised about the environmental impacts and security at the Burquitlam Community Gardens.
They also said there was little consultation when the proposal changed to 206 units.
"You need to keep residents in the loop," said Ben Craig of the Oakdale Neighbourhood Association.
Therese Weel of the Burquitlam Community Association said she drew up a petition in March, when the legal notices were published and letters were mailed out to affected agencies, that called for a smaller development, as put forward in the original plan.
"We canvassed the neighbourhood and ultimately collected the signatures of 29 residents living near the development," Weel told The Tri-City News. "Researching, understanding the issues, discussing the options and providing written feedback requires considerable time and effort.
"The residents — through their individual and collective efforts — have responded clearly and cohesively."
Still, David Jacobson, Intracorp's senior development manager, said the concept for the apartment came late, while the company was working with city staff. Coquitlam's new Transit-Oriented Development Strategy (TDS) calls for high growth around rapid transit centres.
Asked what efforts Intracorp made to consult the public about its new plan, Jacobson responded by email yesterday (Thursday) saying, "Since the TDS and resulting development objectives were all part of the broader Burquitlam Neighbourhood Plan update process, city staff wanted to ensure that all public notifications and open houses were city-directed.
"Intracorp respected this request to not get ahead of the city’s planning process and we understand that all required public notifications were properly conducted by the city."
Meanwhile, as council weighs the pros and cons next week, it will also consider the financial benefits. The Intracorp application is the first to fall under the TDS that was adopted last July. As a result, the company would be required to pay community amenity contributions. For the city, that translates to $600,000 for a future recreation facility, which is needed in Burquitlam.
As well, Intracorp says it will offer more housing choices in Burquitlam, an area that has the city's largest rental stock. Its apartments will typically have one and two bedrooms while the townhomes will be 1,400 to 1,650 sq. ft. each and have a minimum of three bedrooms.
"There is a need and a demand for this type of housing" for families, Jacobson told council on Monday.
City council is expected to consider the Intracorp proposal at Monday's council meeting, the last meeting before a month-long summer break.