In 1996, the City of Burnaby rezoned a forest along southridge Drive adjacent to Byrnepark Drive to allow for future multifamily housing. Two decades ago, the significance of urban forests was not appreciated by politicians, city planners and the general population. There was no elementary school, and no townhomes to the north.
Twenty-one years later, the City of Burnaby has inexplicably decided that at the end of November the fate of 3.657 acres of City owned succession forest will be sealed, with a market condominium development replacing it.
Ironically, On September 27, one day after National Tree Day, the City of Burnaby issued its Request for Offers on its forest. The Site must be rezoned in order to permit a site-specific development. The purchase and sale of the Site is conditional on the rezoning for a multiple-family residential development on the Site being achieved within two years of the sale. According to the RFO, the Site is being sold “with the intent that the first phase of a medium-density residential project will be built within three (3) years.”
This is the first of three properties rezoned for condos in 1996.
The Site is adjacent to Byrne Creek Ravine Park, 14-minute walking distance (about 1.2km uphill) to Edmonds Skytrain Station. While there are good bike trails in the area, the site is on a steep hill making it only somewhat bikeable. According to the website walkscore.com, the site is classified “car-dependent” garnering a score of 31 out of 100 for walkability.
Edmonds Skytrain is a 14-16 minute walk up a steep grade from the lot (Google Maps)
To the northeast, Ledgestone I & II, 7428-7488 Southwynde Avenue, and Adera Green, 7418 Byrnepark Walk, were developed in 2003 and 2010 respectively. It is of interest to note that Byrne Creek Streamkeepers documented major fish kills due to toxins flowing into storm drains in 2006, 2007, March 2010 and Nov. 2010. Hundreds to thousands of fish died in each incident. Spawner returns have begun to increase since 2011 thanks to the work of the Streamkeepers and the cessation of construction on the South Slope. While the creek shows resilience, the continued survival of fish in the stressed creek is not a certainty.
No doubt, the upstream tower and condo developments in the Edmonds area already in the approval pipeline are raising concerns with the Streamkeepers. With high rise developments being proposed, approved and constructed at breakneck speed in Burnaby’s town centers and Metrotown, one wonders why the City is hellbent on selling its natural asset on the condition that the buyer develop it into condos unaffordable for most working families.
Today, few laws or regulations govern the urban forest at the provincial or national level. That leaves the responsibility to protect them at the local government level. With the undue level of influence of developer donations to our local politicians, and the insatiable appetite for new lands to exploit, it is left to residents to protect these forests and ensure decisions are made in the best interests of the community.
Area is a car dependent community due to steep grades and proximity to shopping
In the Burnaby Now, Colleen Jordan, chair of the city’s planning and development committee, called the petition “frustrating. It’s like, ‘Ok, well you’ve torn down a bunch of forest, so we can live here, but now we’re here, but now no more, stop.’ … It’s hard,”
It’s not that hard actually. Ms. Jordan et al often talk about the 40,000 people coming to Burnaby by 2021; that’s over 3 percent growth per year. Reality check: Burnaby’s population growth since 2011 has been 0.85 percent annually; families cannot afford Burnaby!
|% Annual Growth||–||0.85||3.20||1.63|
Byrne Drive Development won’t contribute to a reduction of GHGs. It threatens farmland, it adds to car congestion and commute times, and it’s not walkable to transit.
As land becomes more scarce and more expensive (the Site appreciated 34.3 percent in one year, from $19,633,000 on July 1st, 2015 to $26,372,000 on July 1st, 2016) selling off our most valuable asset seems shortsighted.