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Sequoia to be cut, heritage home to be saved in Coquitlam housing plan that's getting mixed reviews

It’s back to the drawing board for a development company that wants to build 93 condo and townhouse units — south of the Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam.

It’s back to the drawing board for a development company that wants to build 93 condo and townhouse units — south of the Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam.

On Monday (Dec. 13), a tie vote by council meant that the Burquitlam housing plans by Circadian (Rochester) Developments failed to get first bylaw readings.

Councillors Brent Asmundson, Craig Hodge, Dennis Marsden and Chris Wilson voted in favour of the bid for 571, 601 and 609 Rochester Ave., and 602 and 606 Madore Ave. moving to public hearing, while councillors Steve Kim, Trish Mandewo and Teri Towner, as well as Mayor Richard Stewart opposed the proposal.

The motion was automatically defeated and, as a result, council unanimously agreed to return the plan to city staff for further review with Circadian. 

“I want this project to work and I want it something that we can all be proud of,” Stewart said.

The project has had a tough go since the start.

In 2017, the 44-year owner of the Pollard Residence — a home built in 1909, one of the oldest in the city — applied to have her home razed to sell the land.

Council, however, voted 8-1 to stop her demolition permit for two months while city staff negotiated to save the heritage house at 609 Rochester Ave.

The following year, Circadian submitted a bid for two six-storey apartment buildings on neighbouring properties and to conserve the Pollard Residence, to build a total of 182 units.

But after a public consultation, the developer tossed the concept in 2019 and, due to financial reasons, withdrew its offer to buy 572 and 600 Madore Ave.

Still, Circadian continued to tweak its controversial plans and, in April 2021, offered its latest version: 93 units in an apartment block and two townhouse buildings, plus a restored Pollard Residence.

According to city staff reports, the feedback from neighbours in June was mixed.

Of the 105 responses, 64 were in support of the proposal — citing heritage preservation, as well as economic spinoffs for the city and the need for more housing — while 40 were opposed, citing points that included excessive height or density and the removal of mature trees.

The potential loss of a large sequoia in the Pollard Residence front yard as well as a copper beech tree, which were described in an arborist report as being in “excellent health condition,” irked the council naysayers.

In fact, a city staff report noted 39 onsite trees and nine offsite city trees are proposed to get the chop.

Kim said Circadian’s plan to plant 43 replacement trees, including maple, dogwood, magnolia and redbud species, isn’t good enough.

As for the sequoia, it “is one of the most magnificent in our community,” Stewart said, but he acknowledged that it’s “hard to protect a tree in the middle of a development site.”

Stewart also said he was “deeply troubled” the development would only take up 60 per cent of the block and results in orphaning two lots, which is against council policy.

Mandewo said with so much backlash to the bid, it’s best to hold off on first bylaw readings until the issues can be ironed out.

“There’s no point going to public hearing to kill it,” Hodge said.

If approved, the city would gain $1.3 million in development cost charges and $247,000 in voluntary community amenity contributions.