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Letter: Lands should be reserved for Burnaby General Hospital

Mayor and council should rethink plans for large-scale development of 40 acres on the corner of Willingdon and Canada Way
city hall burnaby
Burnaby city hall should earmark a 40-acre parcel of land, now eyed for development, for future use by Burnaby General Hospital.


To the mayor and councillors,

I represent an informal community group, Friends of Discovery Park, the members of which live in Burnaby neighbourhoods near Discovery Place and Burnaby General Hospital.

For the past 30 years we have worked hard to ensure that commercial development in our area was environmentally sensitive and remained in keeping with City of Burnaby Community Plans.

I wish to express concerns about the proposed development of the last piece of 40 acres on the corner of Willingdon and Canada Way. Let me give you some historical background by way of setting this concern in context.

The Friends of Discovery Park Advisory Committee grew out of the process of public hearings concerning various stages of the rezoning of Discovery Parks. The Committee since 1994 has had, for example, constructive and amicable discussions with Prime Mover Controls, the Open Learning Agency, CREO, Blue Cross, Telus, Electronic Arts, HSBC as well as constructive if not always completely amicable discussions with Discovery Parks Inc. (DPI). We have always worked for socially and environmentally responsible development, and to create a reasonable set of trade-offs through cooperating with the developer.

We believed that these aims shared by residents of the central west Burnaby area were reasonable and that they had been clearly communicated to Council and to the Planning Department.  

We would now like to request that the honorable mayor and council review the plans for the 40 acres of land at the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Canada Way, and to reserve it for an extension to Burnaby General Hospital.  

With rapid population growth in Burnaby, there is a growing demand for hospital facilities to accommodate the needs of Burnaby residents. We are aware that Burnaby Hospital is currently undergoing expansion, but we are concerned that it will not be long before the current expansion project is insufficient to meet the demands of a growing population.

The current proposed project, which is only steps away from the Highway 1, calls for a shopping centre, film studio, 16 high-rises, and more.  This construction will impact the already congested traffic on Willingdon Ave and Canada Way.  How can this area handle even more traffic?

There are already many businesses nearby, including hotels, casinos, and Discovery Place Business Park, not to mention many places of learning such as BCIT, Moscrop Secondary School, and the Burnaby School Board offices. There are also places of worship such as Willingdon Church and the Ismaili Mosque.

Recently we received notification of this project and discovered the proposal is to build a huge complex of high-rises, a film studio, and shopping centres. A 25-story building would be out of keeping with the character of this area.

We do not want to cause further traffic congestion by adding another film studio to this complex. We need the residents of the area, the students at BCIT and Moscrop Secondary School, the employees of nearby Business Parks and the Burnaby School Board, and people who attend religious services to be able to get to their places of school, work, and worship without undue waits in heavy traffic.                    

We are asking you to please review and revise your plan and set aside this land for future extension of Burnaby Hospital.

However, if the rezoning of one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels of the BCIT Discovery Park site should go through and this land cannot be preserved for future hospital expansion, the rezoning of this land should only be approved if the developers agree to the following:

• A reduction in the number of towers.  Sixteen towers of 25 floors each is too many for this area.  Instead, there should be a mixture of high and low-rise residences.

• A film studio should not be included in this plan.  This would generate too much traffic.

•  The plan should include more green space. We are asking that the buffer zone between the property and adjacent areas be expanded to create a corridor for wildlife, as well as a shield and privacy for the businesses.  

• The developer should make it a priority to minimize the noise generated by the development, both during construction and in the finished buildings themselves.  They should, for example, put noise-abatement equipment around the mechanical rooms of the proposed buildings so the operation of the air-handling units would not disturb the neighbours.

• No buildings in the development should generate fumes or odours that could potentially affect the health of those in the area.

• The development should have more underground parking so that people coming to the new area would not be forced to park in nearby neighbourhoods.  At the same time, we ask that all construction plans be very carefully reviewed by geotechnical engineers to ensure that there is no alteration to drainage patterns or to the small creek that runs through the treed buffer zone on the western property line of the site.  I understand that there may be drainage issues on nearby construction sites, and we do not want those to be repeated here.

• It is recognized that the developer has no official input into public transportation routes, but the City should still do what it can to ensure that transit in this area is improved.  We note especially that there is no bus service on Canada Way between Boundary Road and Willingdon, and this is a significant gap.  We ask that the City and the developer work with Translink to add bus service on Canada Way, and to improve existing transit service on the Willingdon corridor, which the current level of service does not even meet the present needs.

• The sidewalk along Canada Way should be improved and widened. We expect that this development will greatly increase foot traffic in the area.  Currently the sidewalk is fairly narrow and unpleasant to walk.  A wider and better designed sidewalk would greatly improve the look and feel of the area.

Without very careful consideration and planning for the added density that this development will bring, the result could have an extremely negative impact on the quality of life in west Burnaby.  There is very little undeveloped green space left in this part of Burnaby and it is crucial that we consider very carefully any and all development proposals to ensure that we achieve the right balance between buildings and green spaces.  

Thank you for your attention to these issues.

Yours sincerely,

Parvin Chami

Chair, Friends of Discovery Park, Citizens’ Advisory Committee