Beedie tower a go for Burquitlam

A speaker at the three-hour public hearing on the rezoning application for Beedie Living
A speaker at the three-hour public hearing on the rezoning application for Beedie Living's 26-storey tower in Burquitlam. The bid passed 7-2 at Coquitlam city council later that night.
— image credit: janis WARREN/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Beedie Living cleared a major hurdle this week in its bid to bring new life to the biggest intersection in one of Coquitlam's oldest neighbourhoods.

After a three-hour public hearing Monday, city council voted 7-2 — at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday — to give second and third rezoning readings for the company's plan to build a 26-storey tower at Clarke Road and Como Lake Avenue.

Much like Beedie's proposal in 2011 to build a highrise at the corner of Austin Avenue in Blue Mountain in Austin Heights, the Burquitlam proposal was controversial, with the overflow crowd in council chambers split in its opinions on the project.

Proponents, many of them wearing Tri-Cities Homelessness and Housing Task Group buttons, spoke about the merits of Beedie's planned partnership with the YWCA Como Lake Gardens, an adjoining site where it intends to add seven townhomes for single mothers in need and their children.

Among those in favour were task group chair Sandy Burpee and former Coquitlam mayor Maxine Wilson, who now volunteers at Como Lake Gardens. "This is not just affordable housing," Wilson said of YWCA facility. "Residents get the support to become economically self-sufficient… With seven more housing units available, the success stories will continue to multiply."

Realtor Wayne Dick said the Beedie tower will offer larger units (including 13 three-bedroom suites) that are needed for Coquitlam families. And with the Evergreen Line slated to open in 2016 and a station about 400 m away, Dick said surrounding homes will increase in value.

None of the project's supporters spoke about the financial incentives for the city if the tower is approved: $2.74 million in density bonuses (Beedie plans to buy 44,000 sq. ft. of unused density from the Como Lake Gardens site and transfer it for its development, which is permitted under the RM6 zone); $1.5 million in development cost charges; and $271,000 as a community amenity contribution for a future rec centre in Burquitlam).

Opponents of the project said they were not against Beedie or the YWCA but took aim at city planners for recommending such a tall building to be jammed into a small space.

If built, the tower will create a loss of privacy, light and views for residents in the two existing Farrow Street buildings, they said. It is contrary to the Transit-Oriented Development Plan for areas around Evergreen Line stations. Most concerning, they said, will be traffic flow for cars and pedestrians as it will be surrounded by a one-way lane and short street. Access from Como Lake Avenue will be limited as well, they said.

Lisa Manhas, who represented residents of two Farrow Street towers, presented a 200-name petition against Beedie's plan while the presidents of the Burquitlam and Oakdale community associations chastised council for bringing forward an application before the 12-year-old Burquitlam-Lougheed Neighbourhood Plan is updated.

With Beedie's tower as well as other future developments, Burquitlam will swell with 4,000 more residents in the next five years, said Oakdale's Ben Craig. That, in turn, will put pressure on the infrastructure.

Burquitlam president Don Violette added: "There's not much planning going on in our planning department."


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