Easy public hearing for previously controversial Burnaby development

A development involving the sale of forested city land that struck controversy earlier this year passed with relative ease this week, after some tweaks were made to appease the opposition.

A zoning amendment for 6438 Byrnepark Dr. first went to public hearing in late April, where it was met with strong opposition from a group listing multiple issues with the development.

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At that point, developer Polygon’s proposal was for a four-storey, 58-unit condo building and 43 townhouses at the corner of Southridge Drive and Byrnepark Drive, but the opposing residents wanted to keep the land public.

The opposing group sought conditions on the rezoning, including mandating rentals and disincentivizing driving by reducing parking spaces. They also raised concerns about destroying the forested area, which can absorb greenhouse gases and impact the local ecosystem.

In its updated report ahead of the Oct. 29 public hearing, staff noted changes believed to be “a balanced approach” to the matter.

Among the changes, staff said the developer agreed to adding 20 below-market rental units, increasing the total units by one-fifth. The 20 units will all be 20 per cent under the average market rates, according to staff.

To accomplish that, the development now intends to add a floor, making it a five-storey apartment building rather than four storeys. To avoid density issues, the developer took a “creative” approach, staff said, and will add density to a development in the Metrotown area in exhange for providing the rental units. 

The development will also reduce the per-unit parking spaces – although the actual number of parking spaces will stay the same. But the developer will also be increasing the amount of bicycle parking spaces, and the developer has agreed to provide 15 per cent of residents with two-zone transit passes for one year.

In response to the concerns about the loss of trees, city staff noted that the long-standing plans for the Edmonds town centre have included developing that area. Part of that development, however, was an emphasis on maintaining green space, with roughly 951 acres of green and park space to be preserved.

That adds up to 23.6 per cent of the total area of the Edmonds town centre, the highest percentage of any of the city’s town centres.

Finally, staff noted that an environmental assessment and management plan “will ensure that any disruption to wildlife in the area is minimized and that construction will not impact nesting migratory birds.”

While the April public hearing saw 12 in-person submissions (two for, nine opposed), October’s hearing heard from just two people.

Joel Gibbs, a former Green council candidate who also opposed the development in April, questioned whether the 20 below-market rental units were enough. In particular, he stressed that the city should seek more public benefits when selling public land.

He also questioned whether the proposal for parking went far enough, saying the city should be encouraging a shift away from fossil-fuel consumption.

Teresa Rosiello said she wanted to see some of the townhouses be included among the rentals.

“One thing I see as a preschool teacher that broke my heart about a year-and-a-half ago was one of the students I was teaching had moved to Surrey because their family couldn’t find any place to rent,” she said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the developer would reduce density at its Metrotown development. It will add density there in exchange for building below-market rental units on Byrnepark Drive. 

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