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Whatever the choice, thousands of residents

More than 100 people turned up this week to review the plans for the next - and biggest - neighbourhood to be built in northeast Coquitlam.

More than 100 people turned up this week to review the plans for the next - and biggest - neighbourhood to be built in northeast Coquitlam.

Tuesday's open house on the draft Partington Creek Neighbourhood Plan saw participants pouring over display boards and speaking with city planning and engineering staff about future growth in the area that, when built out over the next 20 to 25 years, will accommodate up to 15,000 residents. (In all, up to 24,000 people are expected to call Burke Mountain home.)

Under the city's plans, the neighbourhood would also have the village core for Burke Mountain; 200,000 square feet of commercial space; three elementary schools; a middle school; parks; and, possibly, a city cemetery.

Partington Creek is the fourth neighbourhood plan for Burke Mountain. Previously, city council adopted plans for Upper Hyde Creek, Lower Hyde Creek and Smiling Creek. And once Partington Creek is passed, the city plans to start work on the fifth Burke neighbourhood: Hazel Drive.

Of Partington Creek's 595 acres, the city owns about 130 acres (or 22%) and most of the development lands in the 66-acre village.

And at Tuesday's open house at Leigh elementary school, participants were asked how they would like to see the village built - a similar exercise held in Austin Heights residents for that community's neighbourhood plan, which was adopted by city council in April. The Partington options are:

Concept 1: Large, low-rise buildings as in West Vancouver's Ambleside area, housing 8,400 to 11,500 residents;

Concept 2: Mid-rise buildings, pedestrian-focused like in UniverCity at Simon Fraser University, housing 9,300 to 12,500 residents;

and Concept 3: Compact, highrise buildings like in Yaletown, housing 9,800 to 15,000 residents.

Community planner Andrew Young, who has overseen the Partington Creek project since 2006, said no decisions have been made yet on the number of highrises that could be built under Concept 3.

"Ultimately, to reach a population of 15,000 people would require a more intense development in the neighbourhood centre in the form of multi-storey condominium buildings," Young said in an email, adding the city envisions around 3,700 people living in the village core for the mid-sized option.

Still, there are a number of challenges with building the automobile-reliant Partington Creek neighbourhood, namely, the BC Hydro rights-of-way (development can't go under the wires); stormwater controls (slopes generally range from 5% to 20%); and protection of fish habitat (Partington Creek is federally rated as one of the healthiest watersheds in Metro Vancouver, with a reported 14 or more species of fish).

Indeed, the neighbourhood plan was tied up for about a year while Fisheries and Oceans Canada sought more preservation for the Star Creek tributaries. As a result, the city moved the entire village core to the west. Fisheries signed off on the $30-million integrated watershed management plan last month, allowing the neighbourhood plan to move forward.

Calls to most of the Partington Creek Neighbourhood Working Group members were not returned by press time.

But Cheryl Zepeski said she is comfortable with the way the city intends to develop the area. "I thought the plan was just fine, though it needs to be tweaked with the public feedback from the open house," she said, adding, "The city has done a lot of work with fisheries and environmental mitigation."

"I think they're trying their best for land use and respecting the people who have lived here for a long time," said Pam Goessaert, a 20-plus year Burke Mountain resident. "I appreciated taking part in the working group but I don't know if it means anything in the long run, when it's all developed. They will do want they want to do up there."

Comments on the draft Partington Creek Neighbourhood Plan - and its companion watershed management document - can be sent to [email protected] until Tuesday, June 28 to be included in the city staff report to council. A fourth open house is planned for Sept. 22.

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