Burnaby city council roundup—April 25, 2022
From public hearings to lighting projects to rental housing stock, here's what council looked at on Monday night.
I always consider working late (after 5) an excuse to snack like crazy. It’s coming up on 8:30pm as I’m writing this, and I’ve devoured an insane amount of food, none of which is my dinner! Maybe that’s because watching city council meetings is kind of like watching TV or a movie for me.
Here’s what I was snacking through as council met on Monday evening.
Expo Line lighting
You may already know that the city has invested in a $10 million contract to install lighting along the area of BC Parkway, between Patterson and Edmonds SkyTrain Stations, in a bid to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
The first phase of the project, between Patterson and Imperial St, was completed late last year for $3.5 million, and tonight council was asked to approve the remaining $6.5 million in funding for the rest of the project.
Coun Alison Gu started things off by saying that the part of the project that’s already been completed… doesn’t actually make her feel all that much safer, as a woman and a cyclist. She said she was disappointed with a recent ride in the area, and said that investments made on the public dime need to serve a purpose beyond aesthetics.
Coun Pietro Calendino agreed—proposing that council decide not to immediately approve the remainder of the funding, and instead refer it back to staff to work with the contractor on a solution. He also pointed out that the planning and development committee passed a motion to initiate an urban design study of the areas both east and west of Metrotown Station—something that would likely include lighting anyway, possibly making this work redundant. He did, however, note that the city has signed a contract that it will need to fulfil.
Coun Dan Johnston said he disagreed somewhat with the previous two speakers, and said safety can be achieved while keeping aesthetics in mind. However, he had a different concern: the contract has been signed on a “design-build basis”, and he wanted to make sure that the city will have final say on the design of the project. Staff said the contract was initially signed on that basis to accelerate the first phase and have it done by the end of last year. While the contract itself isn’t conditional on the design, the city will have decision-making authority.
Coun Mike Hillman said the lights themselves are adjustable, and asked if their direction could be changed to provide more ambient lighting. Staff said that that is definitely a possibility, along with increasing the brightness levels as well–but general manager of engineering James Lota also noted that right now, the area between Edmonds and Royal Oak has no lighting whatsoever, and so any lighting at all would be an improvement.
Lota also cautioned that the current contract and pricing were agreed upon prior to global supply chain issues, and said delaying the contract may mean the city’s prices go up and we lose our place in the queue.
Mayor Mike Hurley jumped in at that point to say that wasn’t an option he wanted to take, and that he’d be more inclined to refer the report back to staff for just a couple of weeks in order to make sure the city could keep its current pricing locked in.
Calendino, meanwhile, pointed out that TransLink has said it’s looking at putting in lighting along BC Parkway as well—something it included in its 2021 Municipal Funding program. He asked if Burnaby could work with TransLink on that project to avoid doubling up.
Hurley asked staff to check whether TransLink will be able to get its lighting project done “in the next 10 years”—to much laughter from his colleagues.
Motion to refer the report back to staff for a short period of time and consult with Translink on its lighting project: carried.
Willingdon Lands rezoning
This item recommended that the Willingdon Lands rezoning bylaw be forwarded to a public hearing at the end of May. That proposed development at the corner of Willingdon Ave and Canada Way is owned jointly by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and will be built by Aquilini Development.
Things got a bit testy as council discussed this project.
Coun Colleen Jordan had a question about public consultations—two virtual information sessions in February garnered just 40 participants. About 4,000 cards were sent out to the nearby neighbourhoods to inform residents about the sessions.
Jordan was concerned that notices about the public hearing would only go out to people living within 30m of the development, as is the city’s policy for rezoning bylaws. The policy for amendments to an official community plan (which the Willingdon Lands also requires) go out to those living within 100m, and Jordan seemed to suggest that notices about the public hearing for the rezoning bylaw should be sent out to the same crowd.
However, Coun Sav Dhaliwal jumped in to call that possibility unfair if it’s not applied equally to all proposed rezoning bylaws. He said that council needs to stick to policy on the matter—and if council decides that the rule needs to be changed, then it needs to be done through an official policy change and followed for all projects—but he said there couldn’t be any “picking and choosing” done.
Staff also noted that there are different avenues for people to learn about public hearings, including through the media and through signs posted on the site of the proposed developments.
Rental obligation transfer
This item featured a proposed development at Austin Ave and Gatineau Place in the Lougheed Town Centre neighbourhood that had requested to move its density and rental obligation to another site on Carrigan Ct. There were a couple of reasons for this request, but one of the main ones is that the province told developers Pinnacle International that it will not permit any encumbrances over land owned by the BC Transportation and Finance Authority; i.e., Lougheed Hwy.
Calendino was supportive of the request because he said ultimately it will culminate an addition of more than 546 affordable rental units to the city’s housing stock—whether some of those units are in a slightly different location than originally planned or not.
The Carrigan Ct site currently houses two three-storey buildings that date to 1970, with 141 rental units. There would be two rental towers in the new development; 141 of the new units would replace the old units, while 405 others would fulfil the Austin-Gatineau inclusionary rental requirement as per Burnaby’s rental use zoning policy. The Carrigan site would also include a strata tower.
Calendino noted that 546 below-market units is a much larger addition to housing stock than many other developments provide.
Hillman, meanwhile, wanted more information on the province’s decision to not allow the project to encroach over its property—staff said if Pinnacle could do so, it would have allowed a more “gracious” development that could have adequately spread out its density requirements. Hillman agreed, however, that the current situation justifies allowing the developer to transfer its density and rental obligation to Carrigan Ct instead.