May 24th, 2022 Public Hearing – The Heather Lands Shared Vision Renews A Community Relationship

Public Hearing – May, 24th, 2022

With over 130 speakers left to hear from on the Broadway Plan this week, I assume city council are grateful to whoever scheduled the Heather Lands as the lone item for this public hearing. With an election in the fall, they had to be seen as doing something, and it doesn’t get much simpler than reviewing the rezoning of a policy statement they approved in 2018. Plus this way they can claim to have approved several thousand homes yet again.

In reality, this will be phased in over many years, like other projects around the Oakridge Municipal Town Centre (pg 62), such as the nearby Cambie Green, or the Jewish Community Centre. There are those who remain sensitive to this evolution, especially given its effect on the existing buildings. Still, I can’t imagine it’s easy to argue why a First Nation’s partnership should spend ~$47 million to retain the RCMP E Division’s former headquarters, but heritage activists will likely try.

That said, even respected experts have struggled to understand why this site has attracted so little pushback when compared to what was originally intended to be decided this month. Despite being proportionally smaller than what’s proposed here, the Jericho Lands planning program has faced a fund-raising campaign, and paid opposition from a well-known lobbyist. While those efforts may eventually spill over to this site, you’ll never need to pay anyone to make a difference, so long as you speak up.

Backlash Expectations

Item 1 – 4949-5255 Heather St and 657 W 37th Ave (Heather Lands)Very Low
Whatever the reason, there simply hasn’t been many complaints during this half a decade of consultation

The First Item – 4949-5255 Heather St and 657 W 37th Ave (Heather Lands) – Very Low

What is it?:
It’s essentially a whole new community, with 1,672 leasehold strata homes, 400 rental homes, with 25% affordable for households earing between $38,000-$80,000, and 540 social housing apartments.
There will also be 62,287 sq. ft. of retail space, 62,994 sq. ft. of office space, a 22,549 sq. ft. MST Cultural Centre, a French elementary school, a 74 space daycare, and four acres of park space. “phew”

Where is it?:
Here, on 20 acres that, until 2012, had served as our province’s RCMP division’s headquarters for decades. Since then, it’s been used primarily for movie film sets, and the New Beginnings temporary modular housing.

What will it contribute to the community?:
Fair warning, this is going to be quite the list. First in terms of pure cash, there will be payments of ~$58 million in levies to improve civic infrastructure, ~$13 million for community amenities, and ~$4.2 million to fund public art (pg 196).
The Nations will also retain ownership, as well as the operating costs for the daycare, social housing, cultural centre, and parks, with the city given an option to lease, or in the event of sale, the right to purchase them for a nominal fee (pg 35). A portion of this site will also be leased to School District 93 to build a replacement for L’École secondaire Jules-Verne (pg 21).

What has changed since it was first proposed?
The biggest update since the selection of the “Connections” design layout (pg 37) was a 0.25 floor space ratio increase to enable the inclusion of moderate income rental housing.

What was the open house like?:
With 296 comments in support (pg 184), the response was overwhelmingly positive, though one critic asked about half of the event’s 24 questions, all of which you can view here.

What are its strengths?:
It’s not our place to says if this marks a momentous moment in the path towards reconciliation, but this will spotlight the talents, and culture of Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. It’s also accomplished the rare feat of wining the unanimous support of the Urban Design Panel without any recommendations. Oh, and those community benefits are pretty impressive too.

What are its weaknesses?:
The biggest flaw occurred when the Canada Line was built, as no access or connection was provided to enable a future 33rd Avenue station without highly complex, and costly construction.

What is the opposition like?:
This small coalition has a variety of concerns ranging from the loss of the Fairmont Building, fears of traffic congestion (pg 32), and the outcome of allowing these type of homes on quieter streets. Oh, and one person thinks this multi-year master plan process was a “spot zoning gift to a developer.”

Want to speak up?:
You can submit your comments using this online form, or register to speak by phone, or in-person, here.

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