New Westminster candidates weigh in on the pace of development

A welder checks his work as he secures steel beams at the Landmark 10-screen cinema being built at Plaza 88 in downtown New Westminster, next to the SkyTrain station. Retail for the project is slated to open in December. - NEWSLEADER file
A welder checks his work as he secures steel beams at the Landmark 10-screen cinema being built at Plaza 88 in downtown New Westminster, next to the SkyTrain station. Retail for the project is slated to open in December.
— image credit: NEWSLEADER file

New Westminster residents can’t turn around without seeing a new development going up, or about to go up.

Even though it’s a city with limited land space, there are projects popping up all over the place. Downtown is flush with several high rises either newly built, under construction or in the planning stages. Victoria Hill is a growing neighbourhood. The Brewery District is rising out of the rubble of Labatt Brewery in Sapperton. One side of the freeway that cuts through Queensborough has gone from sawmills to stores, enormous warehouses and a casino, with more on the way. The other side is booming with residential projects.

Some candidates for city council in the Nov. 19 civic elections are quite comfortable with the pace of development. Others, like Gavin Palmer of Voice, wonder if it’s not time for the city to take its foot off the accelerator.

While development is important, Palmer said plans have to be followed and city services have to keep up.

“The infrastructure is falling behind,” said Palmer, who stepped aside from his post as president of the Queensborough Residents Association to take a run at a council seat. “Without sounding pessimistic there are some concerns, but we can work our way out of it. I think we have to slow down on the permits and the approvals until we have a better understanding in terms of infrastructure and schools, the roadways.”

Coun. Bill Harper, who has been endorsed by the New Westminster and District Labour Council is “quite happy” with the pace of development.

He said the Brewery District is “a huge boon to the Sapperton area, Queensborough development is going a long way toward replacing lost industrial tax revenue, and Downtown has been in need of revitalization for decades.”

“We have been very conscious of [Downtown development] in the last few years,” Harper added.

“City council has talked about that for the last 50 years and nobody’s done anything about it and now we have.”

Harper said one future development that excites him is the 38-acre Bentall site on Braid Street because of its potential to bring in not only more residents but lots of employment.

“The number of jobs that are coming out of this is phenomenal,” said Harper.

All of it helps to fill the city coffers, something that’s needed to pay for such things as rebuilding the Canada Games Pool, which Harper said would be a $52-million project. “We can’t even begin to do that unless we have a solid tax base.”

For Harper, even without development, traffic will always be an issue in New Westminster.

It’s a matter of managing it, not reducing it, and making sure it doesn’t intrude on neighbourhoods, said Harper.

Independent candidate Cal Donnelly, a former councillor, is glad to see the positive development market in New West. However, he doesn’t want to see the pace picked up too quickly.

“We have to look at a steady progressive type thing. We don’t want to overwhelm the city. These are quality developments. You don’t want development for development’s sake,” said Donnelly.

Although he is concerned about the traffic issues that new projects can create, he said new development is positive in that a lot of infrastructure can come as a result of the new taxes generated and development cost charges.

“The amenities will come with the development,” said Donnelly.

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