Proposed Burnaby rental tower clears hurdle following public hearing

A pair of developments have cleared another hurdle before final approval, despite more than a dozen speakers and letter-writers opposing the projects.

The two developments, both from Blue Sky Properties, are connected by a tower of rentals set to be built on Kathleen Avenue in Metrotown. The main rezoning application, focusing on the 5900-block of Kathleen Avenue, involves a proposed 34-storey building that would include 230 market rentals and 94 non-market units.

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Of those 94 non-market units, 66 are related to a proposed development at 5977 Wilson Ave., where Blue Sky is looking to build a 42-storey, 356-unit market condo development. The Wilson Avenue development had gone through the public hearing process, but shortly before it was set for final approval, it was sent back to the drawing board as the city developed its new rental zoning policy.

That policy requires developers to replace any existing rentals torn down for new developments or make 20% of the new units non-market rentals, whichever is higher. Occupants of torn-down rentals must also be offered a unit in the new development at the same rent plus provincially allowed annual increases.

The Wilson Avenue development saw 14 letters weighing in, along with seven speakers, some of whom were also among the letter-writers.

Among those in opposition, Earl Thomas Pollitt wrote that the construction would adversely affect his voice-over business on the same street. Staff responded to Pollitt by noting the construction would need to comply with the noise abatement bylaw, according to the minutes from the June 23 public hearing.

Hannah Weibe expressed concerns around declining property values in the area resulting from the developments, as well as the effects of density on light and noise pollution and strains on public transit and other infrastructure.

The Kathleen Avenue site, however, currently holds single-family houses and undeveloped land, and the proposal to replace those with a tower didn’t sit well with everyone. Six letters and a petition containing 99 signatures were sent to council on that project.

The letters regarding the Kathleen Avenue site largely reflect the same arguments around the Wilson Avenue site, including potential traffic and other infrastructure strain and noise from construction. One letter-writer, Reinhard Schauer, pointed to the city’s Metrotown plan, which calls for Central Park East to include more gentle density to “respect the neighbourhood’s park-side nature.”

Coun. Colleen Jordan, too, spoke out against the development in the July 6 council meeting, during which council gave the rezonings second reading.

She noted the city owns several properties along Kathleen Avenue and had intended on buying more in the past to consolidate the properties and “do something special” with the street.

“It’s been talked about in many discussions about consolidating with other properties across the street and across the back,” Jordan said, “but nothing has ever come forward in a substantive way to develop the whole block.”

She quoted the petition that was delivered to council, which said the development is “not only bad for our street, it’s bad for Metrotown, it’s bad for the people who, in the future, will live in this cramped ghetto.”

Letter-writers pointed to the sharp density of the development, which packs 34 storeys onto a relatively small lot, an argument Jordan amplified in council.

“It’s an easy way out for the developer to take a huge amount of density, transfer it from his Wilson Avenue site to this one,” she said. “This site will have a total floor-area ratio of 11.67. It will be almost twice what is the usual floor area in the Metrotown plan. … I think it’s setting a horrible precedent.”

The petition also notes the development of Kathleen Avenue should take a “holistic” approach that would incorporate the entire block, rather than piecemeal work through individual rezonings.

The developments passed second reading at the July 6 council meeting, with only Jordan and Coun. Dan Johnston opposed, and still require third reading and final approval.

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