Burnaby council pulls affordable housing proposal after neighbour opposition

The affordable housing project is now expected to go up at a nearby site

A resident in the area of a proposed affordable rental building is declaring victory after council voted to rescind the proposal, potentially moving it to another location nearby.

The 151-unit affordable rental building was planned to go up at 7285 Kitchener Street, but at a Dec. 10 public hearing last year, local residents showed up to oppose the project.

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According to a staff report, 19 people spoke on the proposal at the public hearing, while 80 people signed one petition, 480 people signed another petition and five people submitted letters on the project.

Concerns largely centred on traffic and environmental considerations for the lot at 7285 Kitchener and the availability of another city-owned lot nearby.

The original lot is a wooded area in which a recent study “suggest(s) the presence of a wetland on portions of the site that would meet the definition of a ‘non-permanent, non-fish bearing stream,’ ” according to the staff report.

“The location they were looking at just didn’t accommodate the possible rezoning that they were going to do,” said Robert Ponis, one of the local residents speaking out against the project.

“There’s only one way in and out of that neighbourhood. … There’s no sidewalk; there’s no infrastructure. So there’s no real way for service vehicles, emergency vehicles to turn and get in there. It’s very difficult.”

Ponis said the opposition had “nothing really to do with affordable housing,” something that may be evidenced by the new proposed location for the development just a couple of blocks away.

In a report to council, staff said they would study the location at 7409 Halifax Street, one of two alternative locations pushed by local residents. Although the other location, on Augusta Avenue, is set aside for parkland, staff said the Halifax Street location could work for non-market housing.

If it is deemed viable for such a development, staff said the city would pursue the new spot “expeditiously.”

“It is noted, however, that development of this alternative site would result in considerably higher densities and forms (tower) and corresponding number of units,” staff wrote.

Burnaby councillors touted their vote to rescind the Kitchener Street rezoning as a victory for public consultation – “the system works,” Mayor Mike Hurley declared in the Monday evening council meeting.

They also voted unanimously to direct staff to explore turning that location into permanent parkspace, an issue that will eventually make its way to the parks and recreation commission.

Coun. Dan Johnston said developments have been proposed at that lot for around three decades, all of which have been met with significant backlash from the local community.

Ponis said he was pleased with the result, now that the application has been officially rescinded, and he added city hall is likely to see more engagement from him moving forward.

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