Burnaby council roundup—April 4, 2022
Your Monday night council update!
Hello, everyone! I’m coming to you late on Monday night with some council coverage.
Sometimes, reporting on council nights reminds me of when I would pull all-nighters writing final papers in university. I didn’t pull an all-nighter for this article (because I am almost 30 and I consider midnight to be the equivalent of 3am), but I’m wearing my comfiest sweats and I’ve consumed a great variety of snacks while writing this council coverage, so it’s really taking me back to those good ol’ uni days.
Anyways, Monday’s meeting had some pretty interesting moments when it came to the discussion around the Grosvenor Brentwood rezoning application.
Also, chickens. We can’t forget the chickens!
Burnaby is inching even closer to permitting backyard chickens on residential properties.
On Monday night, council was presented with a proposed framework and strategy to accommodate backyard chickens. Some key framework points include the updating of bylaws to allow for proper definitions pertaining to backyard chickens, zoning districts would have to be specified to ensure the birds are allowed on single-family dwellings in the R1 through R5, R10, and R11 Districts, ensuring proper pen and coop construction, restricting the number of chickens to two per household, only permitting hens, and registering the birds with the Ministry of Agriculture’s BC Premises ID program. The sale of eggs and slaughter of chickens would not be permitted.
Vibe check: Councillors expressed their general support for the framework. Coun Joe Keithley, who has been a longtime proponent of backyard chickens, said that this step as well as the city’s recent initiative to expand community gardens “are two good moves that would help us expand our homegrown food supply.”
Coun James Wang also expressed his support but noted that he thinks the 6,000 sq ft minimum requirement to keep chickens on a property needed to be revised.
“To me … I don’t think it’s good for many other residents in Burnaby that only have 4,000, 3,000, 5,000 [sq ft lots],” he said. “I hope we can look into these issues and maybe can extend to let more people can [start] to have chickens in their backyards [and] reconsider for those small lots and consider starting from one chicken. But definitely, I think starting from the 6,000 sq ft property, it’s just that many others don’t have [these opportunities]. So I really hope we can look into these issues,” he said.
Coun Pietro Calendino went a step further to suggest that chickens should be allowed on all single-family and duel-family lots regardless of size. “If it is a matter of food security, why would we be leaving a part of the population out of that?” he stated.
City staff noted that the 6,000 sq ft lot size was decided on after doing research on other municipalities and also to allow enough space to separate coops from other neighbours. Mayor Mike Hurley noted that council “will be monitoring this and if at all possible certainly expand it. But I think we’re starting from a reasonable place here now.”
Vote check: Motion carried. Staff will report back to the Social Planning Committee and council with the necessary draft bylaw.
Grosvenor discussion heats up
Monday’s most interesting point of discussion was around the rezoning application for the Grosvenor Brentwood Masterplan and moving it to a Public Hearing on April 26.
If you need a background on this master plan you can find it here in our council preview. Essentially, it seeks to rezone the potential site to a CD Comprehensive Development District in order to develop the Grosvenor project into six towers on five parcels of land. Four of these land parcels (4612 Lougheed Highway and 2040, 2140, 2150 Alpha Avenue) once made up the former Chrysler car dealership and are currently used by Grosvenor for a weekend public market and food festival. The fifth and largest parcel at 4664 Lougheed Hwy is currently occupied by an older office building. The redevelopment would take part in two phases and aims to build a high-density multi-phased strata, rental, commercial retail, office and community centre development.
Vibe check: Coun Sav Dhaliwal brought forward several of his concerns with the project’s 100,000 sq ft, multi-storey community centre, specifically.
“The timing itself I find is not right. We recognize that ultimately the population that’s coming to Brentwood would require a community centre either in that development area or in the town centre or just adjacent to it somewhere … But the timing I say is a problem because we do have already three communities centres that [are] currently in works or being done,” he said, highlighting the current projects with the Christine Sinclair Community Centre, Confederation Park Community Centre, and Cameron Community Centre.
“All those are going to be fairly resource-heavy and they will be affecting the tax draw within the next few years,” he said.
Dhaliwal said that before Brentwood, a community centre for the Metrotown area to replace the aging Bonsor Recreation Centre should be considered.
Dhaliwal’s second concern was regarding transparency of cost when having the project taken on by a single developer.
“It doesn’t allow us to go public tender. Whether it’s the right price … we will never know. Because did not have the opportunity to tender publicly what the price really would have been and that to me is a big concern for me. This is something that the staff would really have to work with what the developer tells us the cost will be and obviously that’s what we would pay.”
He also said he felt the footprint of the community centre is “way too small for what it should be,” adding that the community centre’s finished area would be space that would not be “programmable.”
Dhaliwal added that the facility’s location makes it seem “tucked into the highrises of the development itself” and also took issue with the lack of parking for the community centre.
Coun Dan Johnston expressed his support for the development, especially with the growing population of the Brentwood area.
Coun Keithley also supported the recommendations and the development of the community centre, noting that the development’s proximity to the SkyTrain makes it “a good step towards a 15-minute city, which is where we should be going. That has to be our future if we want to contribute to fighting climate change, is get people walking and rolling.”
Mayor Hurley said he supports the development. “I think it is important to have what we really need there which is that community centre, tied in with the rental housing and the below-market housing that is going there as well.”
Vote check: Motion carried with Dhaliwal opposing.
The Kingsway/Edmonds Master Plan was briefly discussed by council last night. The master plan outlines the development of five new towers located on the proposed development site located on the corner of Edmonds and Kingsway, which is comprised of four parcels of land owned by the City of Burnaby or BC Housing. The towers on the BC Housing site replacing the Hall Towers would provide 1,206 housing units, 875 of which would be below market rental. The towers on the City of Burnaby sites propose 1,609 housing units, with 300 being below market-rental.
Coun Alison Gu spoke about her concerns regarding the project and housing affordability.
“This site is publically owned land and if we keep affordability at the rates and proportions they are now, despite having the opportunity to leverage the site to more, I fear the gentrification we saw in the Metrotown area will happen again in Edmonds albeit perhaps slightly slower,” she said.
Gu did highlight that there would be 233 net new units at 20% below CMHC rental on the Burnaby-owned land. But she said she was “a little bit disappointed” that the BC Housing initiative of 875 units is set at 10% below market rental “which is likely going to be a few hundred dollars a month higher than the Burnaby affordable, which obviously sets a standard from the CMHC median market rental.”
She also highlighted the makeup of the Edmonds neighbourhood as it is comprised of a very diverse community with a higher refugee and immigrant populations.
“I just urge council and staff to take a class, race, and equity lens on this project and look at how we can approve affordability,” she said.
Hurley noted that this process has “a long way to go” and council “will be vigilant” of the concerns raised by Gu.
Vote check: N/A