Developers to pay for community centres

An artist
An artist's rendering of the Evergreen Line station in Burquitlam.
— image credit: PROVINCE OF BC

Developers that build multi-family housing around the Burquitlam and Lougheed Evergreen Line stations in Coquitlam will soon have to pay an extra fee to the city.

On Monday, Coquitlam council asked city staff to formally consult with the development industry about its plans to implement community amenities contributions (CAC).

Under the program, which council has yet to approve, landowners wanting to rezone a property close the the Evergreen Line hubs for new housing at or below a floor area ratio (FAR) of 2.5 will be required to pay a flat fee of $3 per square foot. CACs wouldn't be applied to commercial or private amenity floor spaces, city staff say.

The CAC proceeds would go into a city account that would fund new public amenities in the neighbourhood. It is expected CACs would generate up to $25 million — $3.2 million over the next four years alone — once Burquitlam-Lougheed is built out.

CACs are common in Metro Vancouver as a way to raise cash to build or expand public facilities.

Vancouver charges developers $3 per square foot for standard rezonings to build or add to community centres, libraries, child care nodes, parks, transportation services, cultural areas and neighbourhood houses.

Surrey levies $110 to $1,500 per unit for low-density projects while North Vancouver District bills $5 per square feet for townhouses and $15 per square foot for apartments. And New Westminster and Langley City also impose CACs.

At Monday's council meeting, Coquitlam city manager Peter Steblin said CACs can pay for capital projects that development cost charges can't under the current provincial legislation (DCCs pay for infrastructure such as sidewalks and streetlights).

Steblin said city staff have spoken with Burquitlam and Lougheed developers about the pilot program and said they are generally accepting but they also want more clarity as to how the money will be used and when.

City planner Andrew Merrill said the amenities would be identified with the new Burquitlam Neighbourhood Plan and the parks and recreation strategic plan.

Steblin noted there will be a "priority-setting process" with department managers this fall that will look at topics such as affordable housing, a sore point in Burquitlam as many low-income families are at risk of being displaced with the upheaval in the area.

Don Violette, a Burquitlam Community Association director, said his group has been pressing for a community centre for years, especially as the neighbourhood transitions to high-density housing. Last night, he was planning to raise the topic of CACs with the association's executive.

"We've lost most of our public amenities," Violette said. "We want those replaced and, in my opinion, the CACs are a good way to get the money to do that as we grow."

Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam's general manager of planning and development, said other high-growth areas of the city such as City Centre and Partington Creek on Burke Mountain may also have CACs imposed if the Burquitlam-Lougheed pilot program is successful.

Coun. Lou Sekora, the only councillor so far opposed to the program, warned CACs will make North Road area homes unaffordable as costs will likely be passed on to buyers.

Feedback from the development industry is expected to be part of a staff report that will go before city council later this year, Merrill said.


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