LETTERS: Save this New West neighbourhood

Dear Editor,

Re: Your recent article dated Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016: “Fighting for the missing middle.”

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My husband and I are longtime residents of New Westminster since 1984. When we first arrived in the Lower Mainland, there was no affordable housing in Metro Vancouver, so we looked in New Westminster and found the property where we have resided and raised our family for the last 32 years. We plan to continue living in our home for many years to come and we have no intention of selling to a developer or anyone else in the next 25 years.

So my advice to Mr. and Mrs. Cavanagh and young couples like them would be to search for affordable housing in the outlying municipalities of the Lower Mainland where land is cheaper and more available, much like we did when we first arrived here. And, yes, there will be a commute to and from work but it is what most people have to deal with to be able to afford housing of any kind in our expensive city. Such is life.

When we became aware in September of this year of the city’s draft future land use map, which was sent by Canada Post to the households in our neighbourhood, we were astounded to see that the city planners had arbitrarily coloured our Fifth and Sixth Street corridor (from 10th Avenue to Sixth Avenue) “orange” to designate that our streets had been changed from RS1– single family detached zoning to residential townhouse zoning – without our consent.

There were three more OCP events planned where we could “provide feedback,” and so we spread the word in our neighbourhood and urged people to attend these events and provide input on how they felt about this proposed rezoning. What we found at these meetings were city staff who were almost hostile to any opposition to their OCP.

We were made to feel “morally wrong” for defending our property rights and saying that we were in opposition to the proposed rezoning on our street. Many of our neighbours have written letters to the city since these “events” and we have all been ignored by the municipal bureaucracy, which chooses to hear only what serves its agenda.

If Mayor Jonathan Cote and the city councillors take the time to walk down Fifth Street, they will see a lovely, eclectic collection of old and new homes, all well-maintained, some with manicured gardens where neighbours meet for special events and family gatherings. This is not a neighbourhood which should be rezoned by the city and then offered to a developer who would then systematically over the next 20 years, demolish each house and begin construction on 450 townhouse units in our 15-acre corridor.

And all of this done to meet the City of New Westminster’s OCP agenda, which ultimately was initiated by Mayor Cote and council ... to satisfy Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy and its need for more densification. However, Metro Vancouver’s strategy is “only guidelines and not the rule of law,” as Chief Justice Sharma of the Supreme Court of B.C. has outlined in her decision of the (Metro Vancouver vs. the City of Langley) court case in 2014.

Therefore, the city is not legally bound to follow Metro’s strategy and should not be using it as an excuse to rezone, devalue and eventually dismantle our existing private property neighbourhoods in the name of creating more affordable housing in the future for someone else’s benefit.

Susan Dextras is a New Westminster resident.

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