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Burnaby residents want to halt sale of public land for housing development

Group plans to voice discontent at Tuesday public hearing
burnaby city hall
Burnaby city hall. NOW FILES

A group of Burnaby residents hope to convince city council to halt a land sale and rezoning that would make way for a new 101-unit housing development. 

The city’s mayor and eight councillors can expect to hear strong opposition to the proposed project at a public hearing on Tuesday, according to former Green Party council candidate Joel Gibbs. 

The reasons for their opposition are “multifold,” he said.

Polygon plans to build a four-storey, 58-unit condo building and 43 townhomes at the corner of Southridge Drive and Byrnepark Drive. 

The City of Burnaby owns the wooded lot, which would be sold to Polygon once its rezoning has been finalized.  

But if Gibbs and his allies have their way, the land will remain public.

“Basically, what it comes down to is, if we're going to sell public land, then we should get huge public benefits out of that,” he said, “and, in this case, in the middle of a housing crisis, in the middle of a climate crisis, we're getting literally nothing.”

The city – which had $1.7 billion in its investment reserves by the end of 2018 – has no need for the cash from the sale, Gibbs said.

He said Burnaby should instead retain control of the lot and either leave it wooded or partner with a non-profit to build affordable housing.

Gibbs also said the proposal will contribute to climate change in two major ways: destroying CO2-absorbing trees and encouraging driving.  

“Why are we destroying a carbon sink for private profit?” he asked.

Polygon will build 228 parking stalls both above- and below-ground for the apartment building and townhomes. That’s far too many, according to Gibbs.   

He said those parking spots will encourage car use despite the fact the area is well served by buses and the Edmonds SkyTrain Station a short walk way.

Asked whether he thought the public could sway council ahead of its upcoming vote, Gibbs said “I have no idea.”

“There is a chance, and I would like to see things done differently,” he said. 

At a March council meeting, Coun. Joe Keithley, the only Green Party member elected to council, tried to send the proposal back to staff but his motion was not seconded. 

Keithley had wanted staff “to see if some accomodation can be made with the developer to include some non-market housing.”