Onni’s 220-unit Sutton Place townhouse development in Pitt Meadows is continuing through the approval process at city hall, dodging a six-month delay.
A motion for third reading of the rezoning bylaw had been defeated in a 3-3 vote on June 7. But on Tuesday, with all seven city councillors present, it was reconsidered and passed 5-2.
Mayor John Becker noted it’s the mayor’s privilege to bring back any matter for reconsideration within 30 days of a vote. Becker said it is not a privilege he would “use willy nilly,” or just because he did not like the result. However, he deemed it worthwhile for a full council of seven to reconsider the rezoning, and a new report from staff to answer questions raised at the June 7 meeting.
If the motion had been defeated, Onni could not have put the matter back before council for six months.
Coun. Bill Dingwall said most staff reports outline the pros and cons of an issue, but he didn’t see any upside in the latest report to reconfigure the road network around the townhouse complex and Golden Ears Business Park.
“It’s all cons,” said Dingwall.
He said the changes suggested by some councillors would slow traffic for increased safety and improve vehicle access to the neighbourhoods. He said the traffic issue needs further analysis.
However, director of operations and development services Kate Zanon said all council has to consider at this stage – the rezoning bylaw’s third reading – is land use and density. Traffic flow, design and other issues can be considered later in the process, and with third reading the proposal would move on to the development permit stage. The road network, building form and character and other issues can still be considered.
She listed a number of concerns with the road network changes proposed, including having traffic go through the business park, and that the city would have to negotiate the purchase of land for road extensions.
Zanon also said another controlled intersection on Airport Way, as proposed, could result in vehicle stacking issues between the lights.
“When people are forced to stop too often, you tend to have an increase in red light running, because people are frustrated,” she said.
Coun. David Murray said politicians lack the expertise to design the road network.
“We need to listen to the staff on this one,” said Murray. “Because Airport Way is currently designed with two major intersections – Bonson and Harris. Further intersections could affect road performance and level of service.”
He warned that botched planning could “impair performance of an important arterial route.”
Dingwall further said he does not support the density of the project or tandem parking in the plan. He said council is proceeding without important information.
He made a motion to defer the matter until council has a traffic study and a comprehensive development plan, which are both due in September. He noted that there will be about 5,500 new parking spots in the Onni residential and industrial developments, creating a lot of traffic, and about one-third of it is expected to come up Harris Road.
“We haven’t even figured out the congestion problems, which are complex, on Harris Road at the train tracks and at Lougheed Highway,” said Dingwall.
His motion of deferral was defeated.
Coun. Janis Elkerton spoke against deferral.
“I see it as a delay tactic, not in the best interest of this municipality,”
Bell also did not support deferral.
When that motion was defeated, Dingwall noted Sutton Place includes a “panhandle” off the main property, which increases the amount of green space and artificially reduces the density, but is not a functional part of the property.
He made a motion to refer the issue of density to staff, considering the panhandle and the tandem parking.
Murray noted that the reduced density at the site will make the townhouse units more expensive.
“The cost is going to get driven up now, for young families moving to our community,” he said.
“This was the last group of townhouses we were looking at, and now they are not going to be very affordable for young families.”
Dingwall’s motion of referral was also defeated.