Chris Evans of Onni speaks during Tuesday night’s public hearing.

‘Overwhelming’ opposition to Onni in Pitt Meadows

Public has its say about Golden Ears Business Park

Opponents of the Golden Ears Business Park say they brought “overwhelming” opposition to Onni’s development in Pitt Meadows at a key public hearing on Tuesday evening.

The event was held at the gymnasium at the Pitt Meadows Recreation Centre to accommodate the expected crowds, and between 400 and 500 people came to offer submissions or hear the public feedback.

The city received approximately 500 written submissions, and more are coming in. The majority which have labelled buy city hall staff are “opposed,” and residents who say they went through the submissions say they are 98 per cent opposed.

Patricia Gordon, one of the spokespersons for a group of residents who share information on the Facebook page “Residents United Golden Ears Business Park Expansion, presented council with a petition that was collected door-to-door. There were 1,583 signatures.

More than half of the people did not live in South Bonson, she said.

“Council said they want to hear from us, and overwhelmingly what they’re being told is people are against this development,” she said after the meeting.

Onni is applying for rezoning and official community plan amendments to allow phases three and four of the business park. Based along Airport Way, it will be approximately four million square feet of light industrial space for all four phases, on 200 acres of industrial land. It will be owned by Onni and leased to tenants.

From a 6:30 p.m. start until the meeting finished at 11:30 p.m. the majority of residents spoke out against the height of the buildings, inadequate buffering and that the industrial park is not compatible with a residential neighbourhood.

Bob Meachen said it is “irresponsible to turn our small town into the second-largest business park in

B.C.”

“There has to be a better fit for our neighbourhood,” said gardener Sherry Gorsky, noting “roses don’t grow in the shade of warehouse buildings.”

Dale Wakefield said he supported the proposed breweries “but that is where the love stops.”

Wakefield said residents sitting at the back of the gymnasium, by looking at the far wall, had a comparison of the distance and height of the Onni buildings from the front porch of their residential neighbours, except with “semi-trucks going by on a regular basis.”

Cory Kostyniuk said the employment provided by jobs in the development would not be high paying. Wtih the cost of real estate in Pitt Meadows “A warehouse job is not going to cut it,” he said.

Lisa Ottenbreit called the business park “an absolute blight on the landscape,” and compared it to Surrey’s Campbell Heights business park which is “a sea of concrete” with an “incredible lack of variety.”

“I don’t want to live in Onniville,” she said.

There was one incident where Mayor John Becker asked the RCMP to remove a man who was out of order, but he left before police arrived.

Becker said after the meeting it was also unfortunate he could not get people in the audience to “respect basic rules” and stop clapping during the meeting.

He said “about a dozen” people he spoke to personally said they were too intimidated by the crowd to speak in favour of the development at the microphone.

One man who did speak in favour of the development was John Smith of Coquitlam, who said it will provide space for his small business in a desirable community.

“What you guys all look at as warehouses, I look at as a business,” he told the audience. “I want people to understand, there are benefits.”

He confirmed Becker’s comment that people were intimidated by the crowd, saying “I was anxious even walking up here.”

Gordon said the applause should not have been taken as disrespect.

“I thought it was respectful, and it was honouring the amount or work people put into their submissions.”

Gordon, who conducted her own social media survey about the project and is known as a key researcher for the opponents, gave a nod to others who had obviously done their homework.

“I was extremely impressed with all the speakers. They had done their research,” she said.

Coun. Bill Dingwall, the most outspoken opponent of the phases three and four on council, said the public was articulate, passionate and knew their stuff.

“The response was excellent – a huge turnout,” he said.

“What shone through to me is people care about the community. They care about Pitt Meadows and livability and neighbours. I felt proud of our city and our citizens.”

He said the event left “a whole bunch of options for council.”

Becker said there were useful perspectives for council to consider. City staff will compile a report based on the hearing, and Becker and staff will determine when the development will be back for council decisions.