A proposed 35-storey highrise development at 75A Avenue and Scott Road is headed to a public hearing.
The project as proposed would add 335 residential units to the area, with 20 per cent earmarked as “affordable dwelling units” under BC Housing’s Affordable Home Ownership Program (AHOP).
AHOP is an 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.
At Monday night’s council meeting before a capacity crowd at North Delta’s Kennedy Seniors’ Recreation Centre, city staff presented mayor and council with three options: to deny the application outright, to refer it back to staff and the developer to provide additional info and/or amendments, or to consider the application in its current form.
Council chose the latter by a vote of 4-3, with councillors Dan Copeland, Lois Jackson and Jeannie Kanakos in favour of denying the application. The project was subsequently given first and second reading and referred to a public hearing to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 26 starting at 4 p.m. at the North Delta Recreation Centre.
Copeland, Jackson and Kanakos — all of whom are longtime residents of North Delta — raised concerns about the scale of the project and its impacts on the quality of life for those living nearby, citing traffic issues along Scott Road and that the proposed building is 29 storeys higher than what is currently allowed in the city’s North Delta Area Plan.
“Normally I would sit here and say what they’re saying down the table: first and second reading, goes to public hearing. Normally we do that so we can hear the public,” Jackson said Monday night, calling it a good application in the wrong location.
“I believe the public has definitely spoken very strongly and very loudly on this issue. And unlike others [on council] I am not undecided. It is a major diversion from the community plan, and I seriously believe it is not in the public interest to hold a public hearing at this point.”
|The proposed 35-storey highrise at 75A Avenue and Scott Road as seen from the west. (Hari Homes Inc./Barnett Dembek Architects Inc. photo)|
The official community plan (OCP), which was last updated in 2016, calls for high-density mixed use “nodes” along Scott Road, namely at 72nd, 80th, 88th and 96th, as well as medium-density mixed use “nodes” at 64th and 84th avenues.
However, the property at 75A Avenue is currently zoned as “medium density residential,” a designation intended for low-rise multi-family structures no more than six storeys high. For the highrise to go forward, city council would have to approve an amendment to the OCP and a rezoning of the property.
“I think we’re new at this game. I think we’re new at the highrise game and we shouldn’t make the mistake now. This should go back to the drawing board,” Kanakos said, drawing loud cheers from many in the audience.
Kanakos said an AHOP-supported six to eight storey development at the site would be a better fit for the area.
“That would be a win. And from what I’ve heard from the community is that that kind of density would be reasonable,” she said. “However, what I heard from the community is that 35 storeys is not reasonable, [and] is going to affect the skyscape, the quality of life in our community.”
Jackson, addressing the affordable housing aspect of the highrise, said the city is already making strides to increase the amount of available units in North Delta.
“You know, we heard a lot about the housing shortage being critical. It’s not the first time in Canadian history that there has been a shortage of housing, but you know I think we’re doing our share quite frankly,” Jackson said, directing her comments to the rest of council.
“We know that with every lot split, and almost every new house that’s built in North Delta, we’re building really two houses. If you have a two-lot split, instead of having two houses you have four houses, or homes I should say — the two houses have upstairs and downstairs, that’s four new homes
“And with the advent of adding secondary suites to all the new houses in North Delta, that has made a huge impact in North Delta. Not every single one, given the width of the lot, but I would say the majority are capable of having a suite downstairs, which I think has been quite a boost to the housing situation, at least in North Delta.”
Jackson also took issue with the latest traffic study conducted by the proponent, which concluded that the development “will not have significant or adverse impact on local traffic operations.”
“I don’t believe that statement to be true,” Jackson said, calling traffic on Scott Road “a nightmare.”
“And those of us who live there know that the traffic counts on 75A are quite low because none of us use it. It was intended for that — in 2000, we narrowed that road down when the community asked in order to stop the rat-running from Surrey down 75A.”
|The proposed 35-storey highrise at 75A Avenue and Scott Road as seen from the south-east. (Hari Homes Inc./Barnett Dembek Architects Inc. photo)|
Councillors Dylan Kruger, Alicia Guichon and Bruce McDonald all voted to send the development proposal to public hearing, but they stopped short of expressing their support for the project itself.
“I think after many, many years of discussion on this topic and many different variations, we need to come to a conclusion for the sake of the community and the neighbourhood, and also for the proponent I think there needs to be some closure on this file,” Kruger said.
“I also have a belief that the bar to send a project to public hearing is much lower obviously than the bar to approve a project, and in my view I believe that every project has the right to make it to a public hearing. I think it’s important that we get community feedback, that we listen to the public.
“That’s our role as a council and that’s something I take very seriously. It’s not indicative of final support for a project — I’m certainly undecided, I think there’s a lot of merits and there’s a lot of concerns with the project that still need to be discussed further — but I think it’s at the point where we need to hear public feedback.”
McDonald echoed Kruger’s position, citing his 31 years of council experience — including working on nine previous area plans for Tsawwassen, Ladner and North Delta, calling them “living documents that move and adjust.”
“I see what’s been brought forward here, I understand where people are concerned,” McDonald said. “When we were [creating] the area plan for North Delta, we selected five nodes with the understanding that we were going to try and concentrate development on Scott Road, and they were adjustable. This one is not one that I had envisioned — and in fact when I was chairing the planning committee I voted against it the first time I saw it — but it has undergone a number of iterations since then and I believe it is reasonable and acceptable to have the developer come to the community and say, ‘This is what I’m offering.’”
Mayor George Harvie cast the deciding vote, saying he would not comment on the merits of the project until after he’s heard all the comments to be made during the public hearing.
“I really appreciate the attendance here tonight because it shows that there’s a lot of interest, a lot of concern, both from people that support the project and people that are against the project. And looking at process, this is what this council should be doing, is taking it to a public hearing so that we have the opportunity for everybody to be heard.”
The 35-storey highrise proposal from Arzone Real Estate Investments Ltd. and Hari Homes Inc. has drawn a fair amount of criticism since council received the 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, 2019, increased the number of units in the project from 294 to 335 in order to accommodate 70 AHOP units.
The proposed development consists of a 31-storey residential tower on top of a four-storey L-shaped podium. The ground level of the podium would contain space for a childcare or civic use facility (as deemed appropriate by the city), with commercial space along 75A Avenue and apartment units along Scott Road. The project would also include outdoor amenity space on top of the four-storey podium and at ground level.
The building would be comprised of 151 one-bedroom apartments, 164 two-bedroom apartments and 14 three-bedroom apartments, plus six three-storey townhouses along 119A Street. As well, 66 of the apartments would be adaptable units for people with disabilities and mobility issues.