Friday, June 22, 2012

Density debate in Metrotown

More than 1 and-a-half years after the City of Burnaby amended zoning laws to allow increased heights and density in the city's town centres, some residents have begun to express their ire at the prospect of taller building going up next to theirs.  During the public hearing process in 2010 (which I attended), nobody made the effort to speak against the by-law amendment.  My question for those opposing greater density is this:  How should the City maintain service levels and increase amenities without the larger property tax base that is brought in with high-rise developments?  One option that everyone always likes to oppose is increased property taxes for existing dwellings.

The proposed developments in Metrotown are good for the city as larger numbers of people will support diverse local businesses and allow them remain in the the neighbourhood and thrive.  It's a given that community Centres will need to be expanded or (more built) to accommodate more users.  The density bonus funds provided by developers contribute to such projects.

The following article is from the Burnaby Now.

Sky is not the limit for city buildings

Metrotown resident says 57 storey buildings 

are too high and will create problems

A Burnaby resident wants the city to put a cap on building heights, particularly those in the Metrotown neighbourhood.
Carly Franklin has launched a petition asking Mayor Derek Corrigan and Burnaby council to limit highrise development in Metrotown.
"I think they're getting a little out of control with the height of some of the buildings that are going up in the area," Franklin said Wednesday.
Franklin's petition is at www.change. org/petitions/mayor-derek-corrigan-limit the-height-of-high-rise-developments-inmetrotown, and as of Wednesday afternoon had 10 signatures.
Each signature sends an email letter to Burnaby's mayor and eight councillors.
Franklin is concerned there is not enough community infrastructure - such as community centres, transit and the local libraries - to support the amount of development going on in South Burnaby.
"We've got a community centre that's already jam-packed all the time," she said, "and all these community services that will just be further stretched to accommodate - you know, even fire and police - all these huge buildings they're planning."
The tipping point for Franklin was plans for the redesign of Station Square at Metrotown. The development plans for the project include five residential towers ranging in height from 35 to 57 storeys.
"That's so much bigger than anything else that's in the area already," she said. "It just feels like it doesn't fit in with the neighbourhood as it currently is."
A "behemoth 60-storey tower" is too much, she said, adding that she supports the revitalization of Station Square in principle but wants something that's more reasonable, height-wise.
Franklin became concerned about the size of developments in Metrotown when she heard about Metroplace, a 46-storey development under construction at Telford Avenue and Beresford Street, she said.
"It really has bothered me since I found out," she said, adding that the 45-storey Sovereign development at Willingdon Avenue and Kingsway also worried her.
The proposal for the first phase of development at Station Square went to council last fall.
Franklin would like to see council limit the height of the project before the developer, Anthem Properties, moves forward with future plans.
"I'm hoping they'll bring it down from the stratosphere," she said, adding she'd like to see the city strike a balance between attracting developers' dollars and keeping density in the area reasonable.
Corrigan did not respond to requests for an interview before press time but has spoken on the issue of density in Metrotown in previous interviews with the NOW.
The city is focusing on increasing density around SkyTrain hubs such as Brentwood and Metrotown, he said in an interview regarding the city's transportation plan.
Corrigan has also pointed out in previous interviews that adding highrises is part of the community plan for the Metrotown area.
In Fall 2010, Burnaby introduced the community benefit bonus density policy, which gives developers the chance to increase density in buildings if they give a contribution towards the community.
The zoning allows for increased density in Burnaby's four town centres to a maximum floor area ratio, in this case 5: 0, as opposed to 2: 6 under the previous bylaws.
Through the policy, developers are required to give a portion of space onsite or at other developments for non-profits, or to make a financial contribution for community amenities in lieu of space.
Metroplace was the first development to go forward under the new zoning.
The developer, Intracorp Lands Ltd., had previously proposed a 28-storey apartment building with a one-storey commercial base on the property.
Under the new zoning, the development includes a 46-storey residential tower and a four-storey commercial podium.
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