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New West approves 10 infill townhouse units in Glenbrooke North

Glenbrooke Row to provide 10 townhouse units at Eighth Avenue and First Street in New Westminster
Missing middle: Council has approved bylaws allowing a 10-unit infill townhouse development to be built at Eighth Avenue and First Street. photo City of New Westminster

A neighbourhood that rallied against infill housing while the city was updating the official community plan had little to say about a proposed infill townhouse development in Glenbrooke North.

On Monday, council held a public hearing regarding a proposed 10 side-by-side infill townhouse units in two buildings at 102 and 104 Eighth Ave. and 728 First St.

Wendee Lang, a development planner, said the city considered the infill townhouse land-use designation for the site when updating the official community plan (OCP). After receiving petitions about plans being proposed for the neighbourhood, she said the city decided the area would remain designated for detached and semi-detached homes in the OCP.

The city’s land use and planning committee received a preliminary application for an infill townhouse project on the site in 2021, and the applicant submitted the current formal application to the city in June 2022.

According to Lang, community feedback to the project has been “largely positive” but the developer did make a few minor changes to the plan in response to public input.

Tara Gronlund, a longtime New West resident and the project’s architect, said Glenbrooke Row is a “thoughtfully designed development” that will help transform the sites from the older, lower-density housing to something that provides more housing options for the neighbourhood. She said city staff encouraged the properties owners to consider a townhouse development and indicated they wouldn’t support a lower density at that location.

“The site is located within a short walk of all levels of schools, Terry Hughes and Queen’s parks, shops and services, and the upcoming təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic Centre. The project is located along transit routes and is close to the Rotary Crosstown Greenway,” she said. “Careful consideration has been given to minimizing the impact of the development on the neighbours.”

New West resident Larry Church expressed concern that the proposal is contrary to the wishes expressed by many residents during the OCP process, who urged the city to remove the proposed townhouse designation. (Council approved the OCP in 2017.)

“It’s this process that I’m really concerned about,” he said. “What’s the point of going through an OCP renewal?”

Mixed opinions

In response to residents’ concerns, in the spring of 2017, council approved a staff recommendation to designate Glenbrooke North properties on Eighth Avenue, First Street and Colborne Street as residential-detached and semidetached housing. While some council members supported the recommendation as a way of moving forward with the OCP update, others preferred a land-use designation that allowed for infill housing in the area as a means of providing more housing choice.

At that time, staff said the city had received three petitions covering different aspects of the neighbourhood, with each petition supporting a different land use – one preferring townhouses, one wanting single-family homes and duplexes, and another supporting ground-oriented infill housing.

At Monday’s public hearing, area resident Taylor Jones expressed concern about several aspects of the development, including the possibility that construction would hinder neighbours’ ability to get in and out of their homes via the lane, noise from the construction project that could impact people and pets, and potential parking issues on the neighbourhood. She noted that all 10 units will have three bedrooms, and each unit will only have one parking space.

“My personal biggest concern is the rodents and wildlife in the area,” she said. “The last time there was a house knocked down, I believe a block-and-a-half away, it resulted in multiple people on my block, but me primarily, getting a massive rat infestation – to the point of me being extremely uncomfortable and having to face these things with my bare hands. It’s not a fun experience.”

Jones said she’d like to see some kind of pest control management done before the buildings are demolished. She’d also like efforts to be made to ensure no harm comes to the raccoons who live in those homes.

“They are of no harm to our neighbourhood, and I am just concerned with them getting harmed,” she said.

Serena Trachta, acting director of climate action, planning and development, said a traffic management plan and a pest management protocol are part of the city’s permitting processes. She said construction would need to abide by the city’s construction noise bylaw.

One resident questioned when construction would begin, how long construction would take and how much the units would cost. No definite answers were available

Following the public hearing, council unanimously voted in favour of third reading to the official community plan amendment bylaw and the zoning amendment bylaw.

“We know that we have a shortage of townhouses in our community, and there’s many people who are looking for this housing tenure and this housing form,” said Coun. Nadine Nakagawa. “I think it’s the right place for it because I think it is connected to the kind of amenities that we want people to have access to.”

Mayor Patrick Johnstone said the city sees a lot of this type of housing being built in Queensborough, but not on the mainland. He said the construction of three-bedroom, family-friendly, ground-oriented housing will help fill a gap in the city’s housing stock.

“I think this is the kind of infill missing middle that is really an important gap in our housing supply in New Westminster,” he said. “It’s a really high amenity neighbourhood, walkable to schools, walkable to stores.”

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said he supports the townhouse project – with the proviso that no harm comes to the raccoons

“It’s a kind of housing I’ve supported before in New Westminster, and I know we have a shortage of it,” he said. “So, I’m looking forward to seeing that.”

Coun. Daniel Fontaine said he supports the creation of “missing middle housing” and has heard from countless individuals in the community who are interested in this type of housing. He noted the “lack of community opposition” to the project.

Fontaine questioned if there’s any way to know how many residents in the project would have cars. When told by staff there’s no way to know how much car ownership there would be among the project’s residences, he suggested the city check back with projects once they’re complete and residents move in to see how many people actually have vehicle, as that would help to inform council’s decision making and to demonstrate to area residents that the parking being provided will be sufficient.

📣 SOUND OFF: Do you support the City of New Westminster’s decision to amend the official community plan to create townhouses in an area that is currently designated for single-family homes in the OCP? Send us a letter.