Following a recent deferral that left the developer “flabbergasted,” the proposed 2,665 Coronation Park proposal took a baby step forward Tuesday – despite some misgivings from the mayor.
Spanning nearly 15 acres and 59 properties (including one holdout), the project is set to include six towers, a drug store, a grocery store, office space, commercial retail and two daycares totalling about 9,500 square feet.
Following a lukewarm reception from council in January, Wesgroup development company opted to expand the commercial space from 10,355 to 105,275 square feet, and to reduce building heights from 37-40 storeys down to 26-31 storeys while also significantly reducing overall floor space.
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Mayor Rob Vagramov moved to put the project back on the agenda Tuesday with a plan to send it to public hearing pending four requests:
- An option for alternate massing concentrating density along Balmoral
- An exploration of affordable housing options
- A higher jobs-to-population ratio
- A traffic impact assessment that would examine drive-time impacts at full build out
While council was supportive of three of those requests, there was a split on the issue of another traffic assessment. Coun. Meghan Lahti contended those details could be ironed out as the proposal advances from official community plan amendment to rezoning.
Stipulating that it was strictly a guess, general manager of engineering and operations Jeff Moi suggested the traffic study could be conducted in less than two months.
Council needs to see a comprehensive, independent study before moving forward on the project, argued Coun. Hunter Madsen.
“it’s certainly critical to my vote . . . and it should be critical to all of your [votes] if you want to respect your wider community and not just . . . developers and landowners,” he said.
Lahti’s call to move the project forward found support with Coun. Diana Dilworth, who took issue what she characterized as council’s “micromanaging” of the application.
Council asks the applicant to jump through hoops, then council moves those hoops, “and then we set them on fire,” she said. “Let’s just get on with this please.”
Coun. Zoe Royer concurred.
“We need to bring our residents out of this . . . purgatory that they’re been trapped in,” Royer said.
Council voted 4-3 against undertaking the traffic impact study prior to public hearing with Vagramov and Couns. Steve Milani and Madsen supporting the study.
The nitty gritty of municipal politics: A word of encouragement
Council also differed regarding just how many jobs the development should bring to the city.
Noting the uptick in commercial vacancy rates during the pandemic, Dilworth suggested forcing the applicant to try to provide more jobs could be setting them up for failure. Nonetheless, Dilworth joined her colleagues in unanimously voting to ask the applicant to achieve a higher jobs-to-population ratio.
Immediately after that vote, Madsen put forth an amendment, directing the applicant to achieve a ratio in the range of .23 to .42 – meaning between 23 and 42 new jobs for every 100 residents.
Lahti responded by putting forward an amendment to that amendment, moving that the word “directed” be replaced with “encouraged.”
While Madsen complained that the change rendered the motion “toothless,” a majority of council disagreed.
“I think the applicant is going to move heaven and earth to try to meet what they’ve heard tonight,” Royer said. “I just think we should be encouraging.”
The amended amendment passed with Vagramov, Milani and Madsen opposed.
Ultimately, council voted 5-2 to send the project to public hearing with Madsen and Milani opposed. Council also voted unanimously to consider an alternate arrangement that would concentrate density along Balmoral and to further explore affordable housing options.
What the applicant had to say about all this:
Massing: Responding to questions from council, Wesgroup director of development Brad Jones said the development company would continue to work on alternate massing.
Affordable housing: While he expressed a willingness to meet with B.C. Housing, Jones and Wesgroup senior vice-president of development Beau Jarvis suggested the opportunities may be limited.
Generally, a project needs to be “closer to shovel ready” to qualify for assistance from BC Housing or Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Jarvis explained.
Jobs: The city’s request on jobs is a, “very, very challenging target to meet,” Jarvis said. Unlike condominiums where financing is based on pre-sales, judging the demand for office space or a grocery store is more speculative, he explained.
Adding more jobs might also mean bigger buildings, Jones added.
“As long as everybody’s OK with that, we’re happy to continue to look at it,” he said.