Residents of the South Bonson neighbourhood in Pitt Meadows who oppose Onni development plans are trying to delay projects until the next municipal ballot in November of 2018 and make it an election issue, says Coun. Janis Elkerton.
Public engagement is not an issue in South Bonson, where many residents are working against Onni’s plans for phases three and four of the Golden Ears Business Park. Some are also opposed to Onni’s Sutton Place Townhouses, and others decry expansion of the Pitt Meadows airport.
The riled residents could be a political force in an election, Elkerton acknowledges, if they voted as a block. There are now 928 members in the group on the Facebook page Residents United – Golden Ears Business Park Expansion.
They have organized a petition of 1,100 names, conducted surveys online, contacted local politicians, and rallied their people to attend council meetings.
Most recently, a third reading for the rezoning application for the Sutton Place townhouse development, stalled at the council table on June 7, locked in a 3-3 vote.
“I was shocked at the vote, at the end of the day,” said Elkerton.
Residents did not expect to see the matter return for six months, but Mayor John Becker was to use his mayor’s privilege to bring it back Tuesday, with new information.
The residents have played a role in convincing council to hire an environmental consultant to look at Onni’s site preparation for the business park, which led to the fill permit being suspended. That matter was also back on the council table Tuesday night.
Opponents also lobbied successfully for council to choose a second traffic study for the area, rather than rely on one supplied by a consultant chosen by Onni.
And they have argued that the proposed townhouse complex is too dense, and it has been reduced to 220 units.
“We listened, otherwise it would have been 274 units,” said Elkerton.
The residents have tried to get council to reopen the official community plan, with the intention of having light industrial land uses changed to residential. But council has refused to do so.
Becker said the townhouse development was referred back to staff to deal with traffic safety issues. Staff completed a five-page report on road network design considerations.
“Nobody wanted to kill it,” Becker said, referring to council members.
And while he, too, is aware of a public effort to delay the business park expansion and make it an election issue, he does not see the same level of opposition to the townhouse development.
“That strategy doesn’t extend to Sutton Place,” he said.
However, “There is a constituency who would like to see nothing happen.”
His position is that the townhouse and business park developments are legally separate applications to council, and the city has to deal with them individually.
“They are legally distinct applications.”
However, at a June 7 meeting, councillors Bruce Bell and Bill Dingwall argued that traffic impacts of all the Onni developments should be considered at once.
“We can’t have a piecemeal approach to the development in south Pitt Meadows,” said Dingwall.
“We shouldn’t be passing third reading until we have sufficient information for us to make informed decisions that look at the safety of our citizens, the traffic flow, livability … “ he said, noting that significant traffic will be generated by some 5,000 parking spots in the industrial park.
He also argued against the tandem parking plan in Sutton Place – with one parking space in front of another – as impractical.
“I believe we should be moving forward with this, and this is just another delay, so more people can bring more and more issues up,” argued Elkerton.
She and Becker took the position that these issues could be addressed after third reading, during the development permit process.
Elkerton noted the municipality has lost $94,000 per year in tax revenue, by going from 274 to 220 units at Sutton Place.
“We are trying to compromise on both sides of the issue, and we still have to look after the community as a whole,” she said.
Bell also wanted to look at traffic safety, and “a better way of doing both projects.”
“If it delays it, then so be it,” he said.
Coun. Mike Stark was also not prepared to move the project forward.
“I too would like to hear from Onni.”
The deciding vote might have been Coun. Tracy Miyashita, who was away June 7, supporting family during her young nephew’s heart surgery.
Before last night’s meeting, she too expressed concerns about tandem parking and traffic safety. She said the parking plan would lead to more on-street parking.
“It needs a little more discussion,” she said. “Why rush it through?”
She said the public engagement in South Bonson is making a difference.
“They were pleased, thinking this [Sutton Place] is delayed another six months, and disappointed that it has come back to council already.
“Let’s work together to make the best possible outcome for everyone.”