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Residents lobby against gondola proposal

But TransLink says it's a 'long way from a decision'

Forest Grove residents are worried that the proposed Burnaby Mountain gondola is being "leapfrogged through," according to the No Gondola group's spokesperson.

No Gondola is an ad-hoc group of residents who are concerned about the gondola line, which could run above their community from Production Way SkyTrain station up to UniverCity.

The group intends to speak with Metro Vancouver and Burnaby council about the issue.

"We'd like Metro Vancouver and TransLink to focus on the big issues, not be distracted by this," Glen Porter, spokesperson for the group, said in a phone interview on July 8.

The group wants TransLink to take a few steps back and look at the options more thoroughly, he said.

The group's primary concern is that this should not be a priority for TransLink, Porter said.

"We hope they'll look at spending the money wisely, in a way that serves the community," he said.

The cost of the proposed budget for the project increased from $69 million -which was indicated by the initial feasibility study conducted by the Community Trust years ago -to $120 million.

The group is not happy with TransLink's public consultations on the matter, he said. TransLink held two open houses in the neighbourhood in May and asked for feedback from residents in June, as well.

"They haven't consulted regionally," Porter said. "They need to."

Porter doesn't want people to get distracted from the imagery presented by TransLink of what the gondola would look like.

"It is not just a pretty thing in the sky," he said. "We're viewing this as a mass transit system crossing over our neighbourhood."

Porter wants to take it to the regional level because it isn't just a Forest Grove issue, he pointed out -everyone in Metro Vancouver would pay for it through his or her taxes.

He was hoping to bring a delegation to speak to the Metro Vancouver board about the issue at its July 15 meeting, but it was not listed on the agenda as of press time.

Christy Cunningham, a resident opposed to the gondola project, spoke to Metro Vancouver's regional planning committee on June 17, according to Greg Valou, communications officer for Metro Vancouver.

The committee has since asked TransLink for a report on the project, its status in relation to TransLink's 2011 plans and the rationale behind it, he said.

However, since there isn't a report from TransLink on the gondola project at the July 15 meeting, it is unlikely the delegation would be accepted for that meeting, he wrote in an email, adding that it would be better to apply when the report is on the agenda.

TransLink is consulting with Forest Grove residents, according to the company's spokesperson, Ken Hardie.

TransLink is planning meetings with groups of residents before the end of the month, he said in a phone interview on July 11. It is important for TransLink to do some gap analysis in this particular case, he added.

"What do these folks think is going on, compared with what is going on," he explained.

The design could be affected by the feedback the company receives, if that would help relieve residents' concerns, Hardie said.

But he added the gondola is not likely to be zooming across Burnaby skies any time soon.

"We're a long way from a decision," Hardie said, adding it would have to be presented in a supplemental plan, and there's currently no money allocated for it.

TransLink began meeting with stakeholders in the area last fall, and awarded the business case study to consulting firm CH2M Hill last winter. A three-rope gondola system -like the Peak 2 Peak gondola on Whistler Mountain -was the one recommended by the business case study.

The gondola would run about 40 metres above the ground and tree canopy, over the Forest Grove neighbourhood, according to TransLink. The line would consist of five towers, up to 70 metres tall, to support the cables. Tower locations have not yet been determined.