Speakers urge council to look at “whole picture” in tallest tower public hearing
Phase 1 of the proposed development would build a 73-storey tower and an 80-storey tower in the Lougheed Town Centre area.
Speakers at a Tuesday night public hearing discussing two residential towers in Burnaby that would become the tallest in BC told councillors that the city needs to consider the bigger picture of the project, rather than focusing only on the specific zoning proposal in front of them.
Phase 1 of the proposed development by Pinnacle International would build a 73-storey tower and an 80-storey tower at Austin Ave and Gatineau Place in the Lougheed Town Centre area.
But in spite of the stature of those proposed towers, Pinnacle International says the logistics of the project mean it wouldn’t be able to accommodate its rental obligations at the site.
As we’ve reported previously, the province told Pinnacle that it will not permit any encumbrances over land owned by the BC Transportation and Finance Authority; i.e., Lougheed Hwy.
At an April city council meeting, councillors agreed to allow Pinnacle to transfer those obligations to another proposed development at nearby Carrigan Ct instead, noting that the decision would result in just under 550 new rental units added to the city’s housing stock.
A second phase of the project would see Pinnacle build another high rise tower at the corner of Austin Ave and Lougheed Hwy, and phase three would include two more. The developer has yet to submit rezoning applications for phase two and three.
Meanwhile, at Carrigan Ct, Pinnacle has submitted an application for one high-rise strata tower and two non-market rental buildings (where the affordable rental obligations for the Austin-Gatineau development would be located).
Although the Carrigan Ct development is being considered separately from the Austin-Gatineau development, it’s true that Pinnacle International is considering eight possible new towers in the Lougheed area.
Coun Colleen Jordan acknowledged that although the two have separate rezoning applications, “one [development] will not be proceeding without the other.”
Despite the agenda item at Tuesday’s public hearing focusing only on the Austin-Gatineau site and not the Carrigan Ct development, one speaker told councillors that they should consider the larger picture at hand—suggesting that the development would result in not two new towers, but at least seven.
“It would be better if the whole picture is put in front of the public of what the whole game plan is,” said the speaker, who gave his name as Adil.
Adil also asked why the developer was not required to complete land swap negotiations with the provincial government.
“We certainly encouraged negotiations between TransLink and Pinnacle, the developer, to try and gain access to their land to give a bigger site and so that some of the development can be more spread out. But we can’t force that to occur,” said City of Burnaby planning director Ed Kozak.
“And so they did try. They did negotiate, and they were unable to come to an agreement.”
Other speakers raised concerns about the impact of upwards of 1500 new units in the area without any planned significant infrastructure upgrades, particularly noting that nearby Cameron Elementary School is already “maxed out” with enrolments.
Jordan said she shared that concern.
“The way the provincial government deals with schools, is they won’t commit to build a school until the people are there. And that’s a long standing practice with governments,” she said.
“When the people come, then they’ll build the school, which doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. But that’s the way it is.”
Other speakers said they had worked hard to purchase property in the Lougheed area and had taken the town centre master plan into account—only to be taken by surprise by developments like this one.
Some speakers were also taken aback by the revelation that the proposed development would open up Carrigan Ct from a cul-de-sac and connect it directly to Lougheed Hwy, and said this only exacerbated traffic concerns.
However, council heard some positive remarks on the project as well.
“With the assistance of the developer and the city, we could have a much larger community, a thriving community. We have issues that have to be dealt with, and you have increased density, transportation, parking, vehicles moving in and out, safety of our children on the streets—all of that has to come into play, but there’s answers for all of it,” said one speaker.
“But we can’t start preserving land just because we want to play soccer in our backyard. The way forward is this, the redevelopment of our lands is the way of the future. And I just thought that the density transfer was a great idea.”