Delta council has rejected a 35-storey highrise project proposed for the corner of 75A Avenue and Scott Road.
On Monday night (Dec. 2), council voted 5-2 to deny the application put forward by Arzone Real Estate Investments Ltd. and Hari Homes Inc. that would have added 335 units of housing in the largely single-family neighbourhood.
Coun. Jeannie Kanakos moved that council deny the application, with councillors Dan Copeland, Alicia Guichon, Lois Jackson and Bruce McDonald voting in support of her motion.
Only Coun. Dylan Kruger and Mayor George Harvie were in favour of giving the project third reading.
The highrise proposal had drawn a fair amount of criticism since council received the initial application in May 2017, prompting several rounds of revisions based on feedback received from council committees and at various public information meetings.
The latest change, received by the city on May 16 of this year, increased the number of units in the project from 294 to 335 in order to make 20 per cent of them (70 units) affordable housing under the Affordable Home Ownership Program (AHOP).
AHOP is a BC Housing initiative that provides interim construction financing at reduced rates and leverages contributions from project partners (such as the City of Delta) to ensure units are made available for eligible home buyers at five to 20 per cent below market value.
However, the project would also have necessitated a significant change to the official North Delta community plan (OCP).
The OCP currently calls for high-density mixed use development along Scott Road, namely at 72nd, 80th, 88th and 96th, as well as medium-density mixed use development at 64th and 84th avenues, but the project’s location at the northwest corner of Scott Road and 75A Avenue is zoned as “medium density residential,” a designation intended for low-rise multi-family structures no more than six storeys high.
Much of the concern and criticism of the project, both from councillors and those who spoke against the highrise during a two-day public hearing Nov. 26-27, centred on the scope of the project being out of sync with the neighbourhood and not in line with the OCP.
Opponents also voiced strong concerns about traffic in and out of the site, as well as added congestion to already crowded neighbourhood streets and the stop-and-go commute along Scott Road, often disputing or dismissing the traffic studies done by the proponent and the city.
Meanwhile, those in favour of the project spoke to the need for more housing stock in the community, especially affordable and rental units. They highlighted how seniors looking to downsize, young first-time buyers and new families were having to leave the city in order to find housing they could afford.
For many, the project’s proximity to shops, restaurants and services, as well as its location on a major transit corridor that is set to receive B-Line (now dubbed RapidBus) service in 2022, meant future residents wouldn’t have to rely on their cars to get around, negating concerns about the development’s impact on local traffic.
Tensions ran high over the nine hours of public hearings on Nov. 26-27. Comments were at times heated from both sides, with accusations of ageism from some of the development’s opponents, and an “OK, boomer” vibe coming from some of the mostly younger group of supporters of the project.
Allegations of millennial entitlement, NIMBY-ism (“Not-in-my-back-yard”), greed on the part of real estate agents and developers, and thinly-veiled racism also worked their way into several of the arguments presented.
Before calling the vote on Monday evening, Mayor George Harvie expressed his disappointment at the sharp divide and bitterness on display during the public hearing.
“This does not represent the North Delta community that I have worked in as city manager for over 20 years,” he said.
Citing the need to give certainty to both the residential community and to developers, Harvie announced he will be forming a housing action task force in early 2020 to review the North Delta area plan and, specifically, redevelopment along the entire Scott Road corridor.
“The North Delta area plan was approved in 2014; Delta’s housing needs have drastically changed since then, and it needs to be discussed with the North Delta community again. The responsibility of the mayor of a city is to show leadership to solve community issues, and I intend to do just that,” he said.
“My vision is to give assurance to the North Delta residential community that Delta has an up-to-date plan that will not be subject to ongoing significant development applications [beyond what is set out in the OCP], and for the development community, assurances as to where much-needed housing can be built in the Scott Road corridor.
“As mayor, I will work with the North Delta community through a Mayor’s Housing Task Force to develop a housing plan that is supported by the North Delta community and looks after everyone — our youth, seniors and our most vulnerable. We need to work hard to close this housing gap.”
— with files from Jen St. Denis