Putting the brakes on the ’boro

Plans for nearly 120 townhouses in Queensborough have been put on hold while New Westminster city council considers putting the brakes to the area’s density.

An application to change the Official Community Plan (OCP) for two large lots on Salter Street did not get initial approval last Monday because councillors want to first take a look at growth in the area.

New Metro Holdings of Vancouver wants the OCP change for 620 and 702 Salter from residential low density to medium density. The company has proposed 54 townhouses at 620 Salter and another 63 at 702. Historic Hansen House (1912), would be retained as part of the project at 702 Salter and converted into two additional residential units.

“Some councillors feel there is too much density in that area,” said Coun. Bill Harper. “Part of my problem when looking at Queensborough is the density and the traffic.”

He said most of council’s Queensborough focus has been on the need to retain industrial uses, and it’s time to look at the residential aspect because the addition of light industrial development has added traffic to the area.

“If we continually add multi-family what’s going to happen to the traffic? People are having trouble getting in and out of there already,” said Harper.

He said the city wants more commercial development along Ewen Avenue, such as grocery stores and services because they’ve been sucked out of the community by Queensborough Landing.

Coun. Jonathan Coté is reluctant to see more density in the ‘borough, especially because it’s not well served by transit.

“If anything we should be holding the line,” Coté said.

Council also tabled a request by another developer planning to build eight single family homes on subdivided lots at 221 Jardine St. in Queensborough. Bhupinder Dhillon, representing several owners, is asking the city to allow the homes to cover 37.7 per cent of the lot instead of the maximum 35 per cent allowed by the city.

Planning staff did not support the request for a variance because there was no hardship related to the site—such as slope or topography issues—and no community benefit from granting it.

Coun. Betty McIntosh said she has issues with the development’s parking and impact on neighbouring residents, while Harper would like to see the city stick to its policy and not let developers push the city to the limits on what is allowed.

“Cities have always used variances as a way to try and fit things in an practical way. But to use variances as part of an overall development doesn’t make sense, particularly if they’re too close to the property line,” said Harper. “We want this to be consistent to the guidelines … I don’t like variances, but sometimes they’re just practical because of the nature of the variance, but sometimes they’re just developers trying to get something on the site.”

A rezoning application in Queensborough from a numbered company in Vancouver did get a favourable response from council for its plans to build 11 townhouses at 36 South Dyke Road. In exchange for some setback variances, the developer is offering to dedicate the land outside of the dike to the city for a walkway and park, as well as land for widening South Dyke Road.

Council directed staff to continue the review process for the application.

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