What are the exact details and status for the increased density rezoning plans around the 22nd St. Skytrain Station?
Funny you should ask that, we just had a Council Workshop where we discussed the Land Use Map around 22nd Street and Connaught Heights. You can read the Report at this link, and follow the conversation at Council on video here.
First off, I need to correct the premise of your question a bit. What the City is doing now is an Official Community Plan update. The OCP is the overarching planning document for the City, which guides how the City develops over the long-term. It will inform how future rezonings are managed, but it is not the same thing as rezoning. There are a few steps between then and now, which I will outline a bit further down.
The Council discussion was wide-ranging, although there was a pretty strong consensus on the major components of the Land Use Map, and Council unanimously approved the adoption of “Option 1” for the final Land Use Plan map:
This option would see up to 6 residential towers build on both sides of 7th Ave between 20th and 22nd, with a commercial node built into the pedestals, and the development of 7th Ave into a true commercial street. There would also be multi-unit residential buildings on two adjacent blocks (think 4-6 story wood frame buildings with underground garages) and a general shift to small townhouse developments south of Edinburgh Street. The townhouses are envisioned to be “infill” type, meaning smaller 6-8 unit townhouse (strata) or rowhome (fee simple) developments that will be designed to blend in with adjacent retained single family homes. This is very different than the neighbourhood-wide large townhouse development style we have seen at Port Royal and around Royal Oak Station.
Included in the Council Report were summaries of the various stages of public consultation, including the most recent discussions with the Connaught Heights neighbourhood about the proposed density increases. There was a wide range of opinions presented, and some significant concerns raised, but none of them specifically surprising. Traffic, green space, community amenities – these are all things that need to be accounted for when we start to contemplate increased density at the west end of the City.
There is also some recognition that previous efforts to bring more density to the area have not been successful. Some of that area has been designated for multi-family since the last OCP was adopted almost two decades ago, and no-one has come in to build that density. This, along with a general lack of housing variety in the Connaught Heights neighbourhood, have resulted in it being the only neighbourhood of New Westminster that had no population growth over the last two censuses. As part of the regional vision of building density around SkyTrain stations and major transportation hubs, this is a place New Westminster is falling short.
The proposal by staff to address the issues raised is to start a Master Planning process for the neighbourhood. This is a high-level but relatively intensive planning process where distribution of housing, transportation, commercial spaces, and amenities are designed based on a set of development principles developed by the community. It is not dissimilar from the process that larger development projects like Victoria Hill and Sapperton Green are designed through collaboration between City Staff and a developer. The only difference in this case is that there is no developer involved yet, so the City and the neighbourhood can work fairly freely to create a set of expectations for future developers to meet.
So “rezoning” and density increases at 22nd Street Station are still a bit of a way off, and there will be some significant neighbourhood consultation before any shovels hit the dirt (starting with a Public Hearing in early Fall to facilitate final approval of the OCP). However, the City will, in passing the OCP and launching this Master Planning process, send a pretty strong message that this density is on its way.