A drawing of the proposed townhouse development for 3550 Wayburne Dr, near Greentree Village and BCIT. (Integra Architecture)

Proposed townhouses near BCIT face tough public hearing

The 130-unit Symphony Homes development next to Greentree Village faced two-and-a-half hours of mostly opposition at a recent public hearing.

By Dustin Godfrey | November 30, 2021 |5:00 am

A townhouse development proposed to go across the street from BCIT faced major opposition from local residents in a recent public hearing.

If approved, the proposal would add 130 townhouse units to a triangular lot at 3550 Wayburne Dr, along Woodsworth Street and Westminster Avenue.

In all, the 130 units would be spread out between 13 three- to four-storey townhouse buildings. The majority of the units (84) would be market strata units, with 46 units reserved for rentals.

Of the rentals, 18 would be priced at 20% below the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation-calculated median rent for the area, in compliance with the city’s rental-use zoning policy. The remainder of the rentals would be split evenly between market and CMHC median rents.

The developer, Symphony Homes, is seeking a comprehensive development zoning based on RM2 and RM2r which call for light density above single-family residential.

The rezoning would allow a total floor-area ratio (FAR) of 1.8, but the developer is proposing a density of 1.2 FAR.

Of the 130 units, a majority would have three bedrooms, with 66 three-bedroom + den units and 10 three-bedroom units.

The city’s director of planning and development, Ed Kozak, said the intention is to provide housing for families, but added there are smaller units intended to house students at BCIT or elsewhere.

The development came to a public hearing at the city last week after facing opposition in a pair of public notification processes in September 2020 and March 2021.

The original plan was for 208 units, which has now been reduced to 130, and the proposed lot coverage has been reduced to 39%. (A city report does not indicate what the original lot coverage proposal was.)

Resident and garbage collection driveways have also been relocated from Woodsworth Street, with residents now proposed to enter their parking lot from Wayburne Drive and garbage collection now along Westminster Avenue.

The development would also see 94 more parking spaces than is required by the city, at a total of 269.

“There is a finite amount of parking space right now, and that’s a huge concern for me. The traffic in the area, I think, is an issue with that many folks living in such a small space."

Photo: Burnaby Beacon files

Trouble at the public hearing

However, the changes did not appease many neighbours, who showed up in droves to the public hearing. In all, the proposal took up two-and-a-half hours of the four-hour public hearing last week, with the vast majority of speakers opposed.

As well, the city received dozens of correspondences from local residents. And among those correspondences were petitions with a total of 36 pages of signatures—though many pages were not full, and some included as few as one or two signatures.

Speakers opposed the large number of units in the space, particularly as compared to the original plan. According to Western Investor, Symphony Homes, which bought the property for $10 million, was planning to build single-family homes in the 2.87-acre lot.

One resident pushed back on the decision to move the garbage pickup driveway to Westminster Avenue, noting that children and seniors commonly walk along that road.

But most spoke about the number of units proposed for the lot.

Greentree Village resident Tara Hamilton-Silverstone said her family moved to the area from downtown Vancouver, “where it is very dense, it’s very loud, it’s very noisy.”

“It took us about two years to find this perfect space, and we are extremely happy here; we love the neighbourhood,” she said. “And this would, I feel, drastically change the neighbourhood with that amount of people.”

Parking problems

Another Greentree Village resident, David Ryan, told council that, while the development did have more parking spaces than required, he was still concerned there would be more needed.

He noted the size of the units—including the many three-bedroom units—and suggested that some may have multiple vehicles, especially if there is an older teenager living there.

“There is a finite amount of parking space right now, and that’s a huge concern for me. The traffic in the area, I think, is an issue with that many folks living in such a small space,” he said.

“There is not much in the way of sidewalk space there right now—actually, in a lot of cases, there’s no sidewalk spaces right now—and there’s a lot of children walking in multiple directions in that area.”

Another local resident, Dana Michaelson, noted the area’s low walk score. The website Walk Score gives 3550 Wayburne Dr a 29 out of 100 for its walk score, noting “most errands require a car.” It also gives the property a 53/100 transit score, with “many nearby public transportation options,” and a 56/100 bike score, with “some bike infrastructure.”

“Honestly, that is not enough parking. There’s no SkyTrain nearby,” she said. “I think it’s naive to think it’s not going to be two cars per spot, and even more with these three-bedrooms and four-bedrooms.”

Some did speak in favour of the development, however, with one man speaking to the displacement of Metrotown residents.

“Growing up there in Burnaby and witnessing the pain and hardship our people went through during the demovictions was heartbreaking,” Gurjit Jawandha said.

“We have this beautiful parcel of land, and [I] hope it will get utilized to the fullest, so we don’t have to send our people, residents of Burnaby, elsewhere to look for affordable housing.”

Council voted, at the end of the meeting, to direct staff to address the concerns raised in the public hearing and to report back to council.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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