Despite an accusation of “fraudulent misrepresentation,” Coquitlam council voted 8-1 Monday in favour of a Burke Mountain zoning change that could bring more housing to a predominantly forested area.
Spanning five lots on the 3400-block of Galloway Avenue, the 12-acre site south of Smiling Creek Elementary was zoned for single-family housing as well as for school/park..
Following Monday’s vote, the site is now zoned for the development of 29 single family residential lots, five duplex lots, as well as a streamside protection area and a park lot. Developer Morningstar Homes Ltd is also slated to apply for a permit to build a 92-unit townhouse development.
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Having lived on Burke Mountain for about 11 years, neighbour Michael Kowalchuk said he was “beside himself” at the project being pitched.
Kowalchuk said he and several neighbours bought their homes at inflated prices based on the idea the surrounding area would always be park.
“Morningstar promised – guaranteed – that this is protected parkland, always will be protected parkland and no one there will ever be able to develop another piece of property,” he told council.
Other neighbours complained that communication on the project was lacking.
A city clerk said there’s been a sign at the site, letters sent to neighbours, and other public information session in January.
Part of Morningstar’s proposal involves completing Soball Street between Galloway and Princeton avenues. Due to substantial bedrock in the area, “controlled blasting” will be necessary, according to a city staff report.
Kowalchuk objected to the blasting, emphasizing Burke Mountain’s abundant wildlife as well as a nearby environmentally sensitive area.
Coun. Brent Asmundson questioned Kowalchuk about the blasting.
“You were aware when you bought the house that Soball Street is a collector road?” Asmundson asked.
“I wasn’t aware,” Kowalchuk answered.
“It’s your responsibility to check the city’s plans,” Asmundson said.
Coun. Dennis Marsden disagreed, noting that in 25 years of real estate finance: “I never saw a single client check an OCP.”
The park issue
In 2006, the Galloway Avenue site was identified as a future school/park site. However, following a review of the school plans, School District #43 eventually picked a smaller site, leaving much of the parcel as surplus, according to a city staff report.
Some confusion is understandable, Coun. Robert Mazzarolo said.
Unless residents knew the difference between designated park and dedicated park, , “I don’t think that would’ve been a very high percentage of people – you would’ve thought that this would’ve been school or park around you, and that’s what you were buying around you.”
However, Mazzarolo also noted the need for family-oriented housing in order to make Burke Mountain a vibrant community that’s attractive for young families.
“Townhouses are this generation’s single-detached home,” he said.
Mayor Richard Stewart concurred.
“If this were me, I would be angry that something changed,” he said. However, the city’s official community plan is a framework, not a contract, he explained.
“Nothing is cast in stone related to OCP,” he said.
The one objection came from Coun. Trish Mandewo.
While she spoke favourably about the project, Mandewo said she was “struggling” with the fact the city’s process didn’t seem clear and that some residents only found out about the zoning change in the Tri-City News.
“To me, that’s a big miss,” Mandewo said.
During the public hearing, some residents emphasized the fact that mayor and council are their representatives. However, Coun. Craig Hodge said they were also representing the people who don’t live in Coquitlam yet.
Hodge said his son, who works as a paramedic, will never be able to afford a home like the one he grew up in.
“But if he’s fortunate, he’s going to be able to someday have a townhouse,” Hodge said.
The zoning change passed 8-1 with Mandewo opposed
Morningstar is also slated to build an east-west pedestrian bridge crossing over the creek and to upgrade water, sanitary and storm sewers in the area.
The project is expected to generate approximately $2.3 million for the in development cost charges and other contributions, including $56,000 for the city’s child care reserve fund.