Proposed bridge interchange conflicts with new homes

Townline Homes rejected by city council after proposing taller tower at No. 5 Road and Steveston Highway

A large residential development will be tweaked to mitigate the impact of a proposed three-level, free-flowing interchange at Highway 99 and Steveston Highway.

The Gardens, as presently proposed, is a 322-unit development nearby the proposed George Massey Tunnel replacement bridge.

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The developer hopes the alterations will lessen the unsightliness of the interchange, as well as the increased traffic noise it will bring.

But exactly what to do with the present configuration has yet to be determined, after Richmond city council turned away the developer’s initial proposal Monday night at a public hearing, citing concerns over increased height to one tower and fewer affordable units.

Council’s staunchest critic of development, Coun. Carol Day, said she got a rare vote of support from other councillors to send the changes to a public hearing on Monday.

The amendments were initially approved by staff, noted Day.

“It’s a big change (being proposed),” said Day.

garden park
Townline Homes development overlooks a planned agricultural park. Behind this rendering is a three-level interchange that is being planned by the provincial government.

And it was a change the rest of council agreed would not jive with homeowners — including Day herself — in the Shellmont area.

At issue for neighbours is the proposal to increase the height of one tower from eight storeys to 10.

Day said she was not “warm and fuzzy” about the amendments, considering her 10-year-long struggle against the nearby Lingyen Mountain Temple’s expansion proposal (which was finally approved last year after the temple budged and reduced the height of the new buildings).

“Given all the grief we gave to the temple about not being too tall, how can we turn around and allow this tower? It doesn’t seem fair,” she said.

“I do worry about it towering over the neighbourhood,” said Day, who can already see an existing five-storey building from her home.

Stefan Slot, development manager of Townline Homes, said the amendments, as they stand, would result in fewer units being built. 

A taller tower was to be built in the middle of the development and, adjacent to the proposed 18-lane lead-up to the proposed bridge, an apartment building was to be replaced with three-storey townhomes. 

“Townline felt the need to react,” after seeing the new bridge plans last year, said Slot.  

“This application moves density away from Highway 99, by replacing the approved four-storey building with 23 townhomes and re-allocates this density to the Centre of ‘The Gardens’ Master Planned Community by increasing the height of the previously approved eight-storey building,” said Slot.

“We undertook careful site planning to ensure that 16 of the townhomes have direct views of the future city park from all levels, therefore ensuring that the proposed highway widening and interchange will have as minimal of an impact to residents of ‘The Gardens’ as possible,” said Slot, via email.

Day said she agreed with the realignment of units in order to mitigate the visual impact of the interchange, however, she was opposed to replacing apartment units with more expensive townhouses.

Notably, the area is seeing declining student enrollment at nearby Woodward elementary — something Day acknowledged.

“In my opinion, we are better off with more affordable apartments that could attract families to support local businesses, bring more children to Woodward school and offer a better mix,” said Day.

Townline held a public consultation meeting last week with 14 people attending, said Slot. Many respondents didn’t think the amendments were significant.

But Day said more people came forward Monday to oppose the plan.

A public hearing on March 20 should see a new proposal on the table.

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