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Townhome proposal on single-family land in Burnaby draws spot zoning concerns

Developers want to build townhouses with daycare and medical office space on single-family and park designated land in South Burnaby, but some councillors expressed concerns about spot rezoning.

Developers brought an “intriguing” proposal to build up to 90 townhomes on Marine Drive in Burnaby, but some councillors expressed concerns about the spot rezoning while the city’s official community plan is under review.

The development by CityState at the 2.52-acre property at 4420 Marine Dr. would include 80 to 90 “family-oriented townhouses” with a 7,500 square-foot medical office and daycare building, and 4,600 sq. ft. of “boutique commercial space” with 10 to 12 below-market rental apartments above.

CityState development manager Aidan Shirley proposed building the two-over-two stacked townhouses to Burnaby’s planning and development committee July 12.

CityState’s plan would see about 0.91 acres of wetland area “restored and dedicated” to the city to incorporate with neighbouring Riverway Sports Complex.

But the land is currently designated half as single/two-family residential and half as parks and public use, according to the city’s official community plan.

The current OCP review, which is scheduled for completion in summer 2025, will set out a new long-term vision for the city’s growth, including future land use.

Councillors on the committee had mixed thoughts on the proposal, particularly as it would be “something that Burnaby doesn’t get into, and that’s kind of spot zoning,” as Coun. Pietro Calendino put it.

“Your proposal is intriguing, because we do need family-oriented housing, and your townhouses would be appealing,” Calendino told Shirley.

“The problem is the zoning that’s existing there, and the fact that we’re (doing) the OCP review, and generally we don’t want to preclude what may happen with that by approving developments (before the OCP is complete).”

Ed Kozak, the city’s general manager of planning and development told councillors the city has been consulting with the community, including “several thousand discrete conversations with people,” for the OCP review.

He noted staff would want to consider the CityState project more before preparing a recommendation for council.

“It’s whether or not it may jeopardize the conversations we’re having with the community,” Kozak said.

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said he was sympathetic to the OCP process but added councillors have been hearing from the public and the province to find ways to increase affordable homes.

Coun. Alison Gu said she also had concerns about public confidence in the process of the OCP consultation.

Gu and Calendino pressed the general manager for assurances the public would be adequately consulted.

“A lot of the things that were presented, you know, have merit,” Kozak said. “And so, it really boils down to a question of process.”

He estimated a report could come to the next planning committee meeting in September.

“It’s obviously a significant departure from what the current OCP designates the site for, but certainly in the spirit of delivering on more housing, specifically on family-oriented housing, I feel it would be remiss not to at least consider how a process could be created that could consider a pilot,” Kozak said.

The committee unanimously referred the report to staff to come back with recommendations on the project.