Port Coquitlam council deems stacked townhouse development too dense, following public opposition

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Port Coquitlam council was divided on the path forward for a contentious development in a residential neighbourhood.

The design for the 20-unit stacked townhouse was praised across the board, but the majority of council thought there was too much density.

“It’s a great development, looks great, but you’re plunking it in the middle of a residential single-family house neighborhood,” said Coun. Dean Washington. “There is a lot of pressure for housing. But what’s the plan for the area?”

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CityState Consulting Group was seeking an amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP), and council was voting on whether the application for 3149 Raleigh St. should move forward to public consultations.

Council voted 4-3 to request the developer to come back with an amended proposal with less density, with Mayor Brad West suggesting the current proposal would likely fail.

‘I think it is more respectful to the neighborhood and the applicant to provide that direction now,” West said.

Several councillors expressed concern over the lack of an updated OCP to guide these decisions. 

Staff said that they are just beginning work on the new OCP, and it likely won’t arrive until 2026.

While staff were recommending the project advance, they noted strong public opposition has already been organized.

A group of neighbours submitted a letter to council, stating an “overwhelming majority” are against the proposed OCP amendment. 

Out of 71 residents canvassed by the group, 69 were against a zoning change, according to the letter.

The Coquitlam School District also voiced concern over the development. 

School district staff advised council that schools in the area are currently over capacity, and the issue is projected to continue.

They said further challenges would occur if council deviates from the current OCP.

Couns. Steve Darling and Nancy McCurrach recently attended a meeting with SD43’s board of education, and both echoed these concerns.

Darling said that enrolment continues to grow, and students will have nowhere to attend school unless the proper infrastructure is built.

He added new developments on Coquitlam’s Burke Mountain have added to the problem, because they’ve outpaced the expansion of school space.

“There’s no capacity left, literally. Kids are going to have to go to Burnaby, they’re going to have to go to New West,” Darling said. “You live in a neighborhood and you want to go to the local school, and you can’t because it’s full, it’s ridiculous.”

Couns. Darrell Penner and Paige Petriw, however, said they can’t allow the school district’s capacity concerns to overrule their decisions on housing.

Penner said the school district’s comments would apply to any build within the Tri-Cities.

“We can’t really hang our hats straight up on what (SD43) says, because we wouldn’t do any development,” Penner said.

Petriw agreed, adding school capacity is a larger provincial issue that council can advocate for, but it shouldn’t get in the way of housing development.

Couns. Petriw, Glenn Pollock and Washington voted against sending the application back for further amendments.

Pollock, who chairs the city’s housing committee, said the development is in line with the city’s needs report, includes daycare space, adequate underground parking, and is close to transit.

He said, however, that he would be interested to see if the developer would be willing to pull back on the number of units.

Petriw said the project adds family friendly housing, but remarked an updated OCP would help council make an informed decision regarding the location and density.

She said she thought the developer’s public input plan looked robust, and council’s discussions around density were “somewhat premature at this point.”

“We’re not deciding whether or not this development is going forward,” Petriw said. “I would hate to not have this go through, and then later down the line realize this was a perfect location.”

Washington expressed concern that council was requesting amendments to the proposal that would ultimately make the project unfeasible.

“We heard clearly from the neighborhood,” Washington said. “If this is half the density, is it still a good product?

“It has to be right for the neighborhood, right for the developer, right for the city. If we don’t meet those three things, then it’s something that I would not pursue.”

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