Austin tower approved

A residential highrise planned for Coquitlam’s Austin Heights neighbourhood received final council approval at Monday’s meeting — the last one before the Nov. 19 civic election.

Now that decision is part of a campaign within the election campaign as flyers are being dropped at hundreds of homes around the Vancouver Golf Club to try to get residents to vote out Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and five councillors next Saturday.

On Monday, Beedie Living’s request to rezone a one-acre property to build a 19-storey residential tower at Austin Avenue and Blue Mountain Street, on the old Shell gas station site, was approved in a 6-3 vote, with councillors Barrie Lynch, who is running for mayor, Brent Asmundson and Lou Sekora voting against.

A few audience members applauded after Sekora urged council to delay the application until after the election and spoke about the residents’ concerns about the upcoming area revitalization that will see highrises along Austin Avenue.

Sekora waved a letter, which councillors also received that night, commenting “a lot of new information has come forward” about the Beedie development. “The person is very, very bitter about what’s happening,” Sekora said of the letter writer.

Mayor Stewart warned Sekora not to reveal the contents of the letter as councillors are prohibited by the provincial legislation governing civic governments from considering further input about applications following public hearings.

Coun. Neal Nicholson said he has put aside many emails from upset residents “and that was sometimes not easy to achieve,” adding he received an email about the Beedie tower bid only 15 minutes earlier and he sent it back.

Area resident Todd Purves said he delivered the first of his flyers last week and will be handing out more this and next week to “remind” Austin Heights residents who on city council supported the Beedie proposal.

Purves said he has spoken with a few sympathetic council candidates and is recommending area residents cast their votes for incumbents Asmundson, Lynch and Sekora as well as challengers Massimo Mandarino, Andy Wickey, Vincent Wu and Fred Soofi.

A Dennison Avenue homeowner, Purves said residents in west Austin Heights — which is predominately a single-family neighbourhood — believe "the plan is driven by landowners that want maximum return on their dollar. We want to see revitalization but done with respect for the people who live there.”

For months, the topic of the Beedie tower has split the community, leaving some property owners frustrated with the process at city hall. When the Austin Heights Neighbourhood Plan (AHNP) when to public hearing on April 4, it passed without opposition; however, a few weeks later, when Beedie officially came forward with its plan, more than 200 people crowded the council chambers.

In response, Beedie revised its renderings and lowered the highrise from 24 to 19 storeys. A second public hearing wasn’t held as, under provincial legislation, it is not required if the height drops.

Beedie president Ryan Beedie told The Tri-City News on Tuesday he doesn’t understand why a second public hearing would be held “when everybody had three years to see the plans for Austin Heights and it was unanimously adopted.”

He called council’s decision on Monday to move forward with the tower “a positive outcome,” adding, “We are going to do a lot of good.” (He did not comment on what council candidates have received campaign donations from Beedie for this month’s election.)

As for Purves’ flyers, Beedie described some of the information as “clearly untrue.” And he said of council’s debate on Monday, which he witnessed: “We respect different views but some of the things that we heard were not rationale.”

Meanwhile, in the new year, city staff will undertake more public consultation on the AHNP and the C-5 zone on heights for highrises, the results of which will be reported back to city council, said Raul Allueva, the city’s manager of development services.

“The timing for the future public consultation process for the AHNP has not yet been determined as it will have to be incorporated into the planning and development department work plan for 2012,” he told The Tri-City News.

The AHNP calls for 5,000 more residents in 2,500 more homes between Blue Mountain and Linton streets and Foster and Rochester avenues; a total of 15 sites are proposed to have towers of more than 15 storeys.

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