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New Westminster council approves change to OCP

New Westminster council narrowly approved a change to the official community plan (OCP) to allow a Queensborough townhouse project to proceed to the next stage.

The move came on the heels of a decision in December by council to table this application, and another next door, until the city completed a community plan for the area.

On Monday, Mayor Wayne Wright cast the deciding vote on third reading of New Metro Holdings' request to change the OCP so it can build 54 townhouses at 620 Salter St. In December, council had voted to table this application along with the same company's application for an OCP change and rezoning for 63 units next door at 702 Salter.

At that time, councillors expressed concern about adding density and increasing traffic in an already congested neighbourhood.

While Coun. Bill Harper voted to table the applications in December, he supported the OCP change to 620 Salter on Jan. 21.

Harper said it wouldn't be a good idea to institute what would basically be a "land freeze."

"That would not be valuable at this point," Harper told council. "If you want to start talking about a freeze on the rest of the community and having a whole other discussion about it then that's fine."

However, Couns. Jonathan Coté, Chuck Puchmayr and Lorrie Williams didn't see it as a land freeze and felt it was important, because of Queensborough's traffic and density issues, that the developments be consistent with the new community plan.

Puchmayr said he would have felt more comfortable waiting for public input on the new area plan.

"I don't see the same urgency in the developer being held up."

But Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said the main complaint about New Westminster from developers is that its shifting policy and process makes for unclear ground rules. It's unfair, he said, for developers to bear the costs of waiting for a community plan to be completed.

In voting for approval, Wright said New Metro's offer to build a pump station as well as other amenities made it the best way to go.

In an interview a day after the decision, Harper said council should consider whether or not to have a serious look at capping the population density of Queensborough. At the current pace, he said, projections have it rising from about 8,000 to 13,000.

"What are the consequences of that?" he wondered. "Single-family dwellings and greenland are being replaced by condos and the density is quite high. What impact does that have on schools and roads (for example)."

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