A 40-storey tower for Coquitlam City Centre got the green light from council Monday despite several speakers fearing the area would become "a concrete jungle."
A 273-unit project proposal by Polygon was panned at a public hearing for bringing too much density to the downtown area of Coquitlam. The highrise is planned to be built on five lots at the corner of Westwood Street and Glen Drive. In addition to it, more of the same is on the way with a proposal from Onni Group in the works to build three more towers next door.
"Forty storeys on one-acre of land is a lot," said Ann Mackay, who lives in a four-storey building on Heffley Crescent. "How much would this be adding to the traffic, both the pedestrian traffic and the car traffic, especially on Heffley Crescent? Already on Heffley we have another 40-storey building which is the Obelisk [1178 Heffley Cres.]. There's a lot of activity on that street already with people being dropped off and picked up.
"There's a certain amount of noise, there's a certain amount of pressure on traffic. It's fairly well lit. I have a concern about light pollution. There's a fair amount of light coming off these towers. The increase in density, if you're looking at how many people, could potentially bring another 500 to 600 people to the area."
Mackay said there's already a lot of noise from fire trucks at Obelisk as well as delivery vehicles for retail outlets in the area.
She added along with the current high rises, Polygon's proposal will put her building "almost in darkness."
Neal Nicholson said council should wait and deal with the two proposals at the same time because together they will take up a full city block.
"This is not ready for decision," said Nicholson, a former city councillor who lives a block away. "It's a big significant site and it should be looked at as one."
A Polygon representative said the company will be working with Onni on developing the entire block. Polygon's proposal calls for 222 market and 51 rental units with a five-floor podium with four floors of office space and ground-level retail.
Mayor Richard Stewart said the proposed density has long been part of the city and the region's community plans for the area.
"We have to as a council is to embrace the plan is before us [from Polygon] or revise it. I heard nothing tonight that said we shouldn't embrace it," said Stewart at the regular council meeting later. "The people that spoke tonight all live in buildings that were opposed in some way when they were proposed."
Coun. Brent Asmundson said the building will be an asset that fits well within the community.
"We are the regional city centre for this area. This is why the SkyTrain came here," said Asmundson, who noted only 12 people came out when 1,841 notifications of the public hearing were sent out. "They understand this density was planned all the time. This is the right area for it."
Coun. Dennis Marsden said the proposal delivers on producing much-needed office space for the area.
"This ticks a lot of boxes for me, including one thing that wasn't mentioned before, and that's purpose-built rental," said Marsden.
Coun. Bonita Zarrillo was the lone vote opposed to second and third readings of Polygon's rezoning application. She said she was torn after listening to the speakers.
"We need to start thinking this is where people live," said Zarrillo, "[and] how we are affecting people's lives and not listening to them."
She finds "it really annoying" the city doesn't have a density target for the area.
"There's no lid on the number of units in here. We don't talk about the effect on people's lives," said Zarrillo, who added she has gone door knocking in the area the last three months. "People are tired and they feel like we're not listening with them. I'm finding it real hard to stop thinking about those people's faces."