Burnaby City Hall. (Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Burnaby city council roundup — Feb 14, 2022

At a Monday meeting, council discussed several items around development—one of which could change the way the city looks at densification.

By Srushti Gangdev | February 15, 2022 |5:00 am

What’s better than a Valentine’s Day filled with wine, cheese, and city council?

Ok, I had less of the former and more of the latter, because there were some important discussions on development at Burnaby’s council meeting last night and I needed my wits about me. My Tinder date can wait. (If my boyfriend is reading this, that is a JOKE and further proof of how I’m funnier than you.)

Here’s what happened at council.

Brentwood West Master Plan

Preliminary concepts for a Brentwood West Master Plan (covering the northeast corner of the intersection at Willingdon Ave and Lougheed Hwy) feature about 1,200 potential housing units comprising market and non-market rental and strata units, 600,000 sq ft of commercial space that would hopefully encourage companies to treat Burnaby as their home base, and significant open public spaces—all in one vibrant, mixed-use urban village.

Council was to vote on whether to endorse the preliminary concepts and vision, and authorize staff to move ahead on a first round of community input.

Vibe check

Council was largely supportive of the master plan’s preliminary concepts, authorizing staff to move forward onto the public input stage.

Coun Alison Gu wanted to know if it would be possible to present visual renderings at those public feedback sessions, keeping in mind that it could be difficult for some people to visualize the proposed development without it.

Coun James Wang said that while he was supportive of the motion in general, he does want to see more information about how input will be collected from the communities—and more details on the heights of proposed buildings and their impacts to the neighbourhood. Wang said he feels that planning for 60-storey buildings off the bat, for example, would be too much.

Coun Dan Johnston, on the other hand, said that if there’s a place for 60-storey buildings in the city, it’s likely at this intersection—already the home to The Amazing Brentwood, SOLO District, and several other large developments. He jokingly noted, however, that the parcel of land involved also includes the last gas station left between Sperling Ave and Clark Rd in East Vancouver.

Vote check

Motion carried.

Wayburne Drive Development

The developer of a proposed townhouse project at 3550 Wayburne Drive has promised several changes to their original design, after a public hearing in November drew harsh criticism from community members.

This report from the planning and development committee, an update on the developer’s design, was for information only—meaning there was nothing to vote on, nor was the item up for second reading.

Vibe check

Firstly, staff clarified that there was a typo in the report sent to council: the number of units the developer, Symphony Homes, lowered their design to include was 130 (not 150, as was mentioned in one instance).

While this item was for information only, it got a fair amount of discussion out of council members.

Coun Colleen Jordan thought it was “unusual” that the report was presented for information only and not for a second reading, even after a lively public hearing on the matter. She also wanted to know why the development can only accommodate units being built upwards, rather than side-by-side (like townhouses). Residents of Greentree Village have raised concerns particularly about the height of the proposed buildings. Staff clarified that building upwards is necessary is to make sure that the development can increase density, in order to allow for affordable housing to be included as per city requirements.

Coun Gu, meanwhile, noted that residents were also concerned about increased demand for parking in the area—a common refrain at the public hearing was that the area isn’t very walkable. Gu wanted to know if the city could look at approving additional amenities like grocery and convenience stores in the area to offset some of those concerns.

But Mayor Mike Hurley remarked that BCIT had proposed several of those amenities on their campus directly next to the site of the proposed development, and that residents had spoken against those ideas as well.

Couns Wang and Joe Keithley also said they had concerns about the neighbourhood impact, and said they wanted to hear from the public again. Staff said that if new information results in significant changes to the development, a new public hearing will be triggered automatically—while Coun Mike Hillman pointed out that the developer has already held two open houses and made changes to the original design as a result of that feedback.

Vote check

N/A.

Laneway Homes

The Planning and Development Committee asked council to approve the process to develop regulations and guidelines for laneway homes in single-family areas, additional accessory dwellings (or suites) in single-family homes without laneway access, and two suites in semi-detached homes or four-plexes in duplex zoned lots.

The idea is to create new forms of housing for the “missing middle”—people who aren’t necessarily in need of “affordable housing” as per the city’s definition, but who are priced out of luxury housing.

Vibe check

Councillors widely agreed on the need for Burnaby to diversify the types of housing available to residents who can’t afford a single-family home, nor luxury housing. They also noted that densification of even traditionally single-family neighbourhoods is quickly becoming a necessity, not an option, for growing cities like Burnaby.

But they also agreed that any work on allowing laneway homes or basement suites must work to avoid the danger of “rampant speculation”, as Hurley called it, which could serve simply to make housing even more expensive.

Coun Johnston said that when Vancouver started discussing the feasibility of laneway homes, people started converting their garages into suites almost instantly—and said that’s something the city should work to avoid here.

Coun Pietro Calendino, who’s on the planning and development committee, said the committee discussed just that and included recommendations for staff to explore how to mitigate not only the rising costs of housing sales, but also of rent in the city. The population of the whole region is growing rapidly, he said, and this is just one small way of addressing housing stock and affordability.

Vote check

Motion carried.

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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