At a Council-in-Committee meeting on Monday, May 6, Coquitlam City Council received a presentation from Ledingham McAllister, the developer currently working on the eight-acre Stratford Wynd master plan project at 1145 Inlet Street , just west of Coquitlam River Park.

Ledingham McAllister (LedMac) was represented by Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer Dan Giordano, who was presenting the changes that have been made to the development plan, in response to six items that Council previously said they wanted LedMac to address. Those six items were:

  • Lack of below-market and/or non-market rental units;
  • Provision of equitable access to amenity areas for both market rentaland market strata buildings;
  • Absence of a dog relief area as part of the proposed amenity areas;
  • Lack of designated pick-up/drop-off spaces for the child care facility;
  • A need for more family-size units in both market strata and market rental buildings; and
  • Provision of pedestrian connection between the site and Maple Creek Middle School.
Following a 20-minute presentation by Giordano, however, the two sides then began their discussion and the frustration of several members of Council boiled over, with the back-and-forth ultimately running close to another 1.5 hours as a result of Ledingham McAllister only addressing two of the six items.

No Below-Market Housing

The biggest source of frustration among the members of Council who spoke was the continued absence of below-market rental housing.

"We heard last time that some councillors wanted below market units," Giordano said early on in his initial presentation. "Unfortunately we cannot do that in this project."

Elaborating further, Giordano said that when LedMac first introduced their proposal to the City, below-market housing was not something they asked for at that time and that they cannot make it work now. However, Giordano said that they can commit to a priority program for first responders and teachers, a program he says LedMac has utilized before.

He also noted that LedMac was voluntarily providing a rental building with 135 units — originally proposed as 113 units — to replace the 113 townhouses that would be lost as part of the redevelopment, which they are not obligated to do. The townhouses were constructed in 1982 as strata units, according to the City, but have been managed as rental units by a single owner, River Inlet Enterprises Inc.

The proposed rental building planned for Stratford Wynd.The proposed rental building planned for Stratford Wynd.(Arcadis IBI Group / Ledingham McAllister)

Following Giordano's presentation, the first to speak was Councillor Matt Djonlic, who was dismayed and visibly annoyed.

"I am struggling with how we can justify moving that burden of affordable housing — that we absolutely need — onto other developers, onto other projects, onto Coquitlam taxpayers," he said. [...] We need that housing. We need more housing. We all acknowledge that. I think this council has been very supportive of approving more housing, but we also know what we're desperately in need of is deeply-subsidized housing. And the fact that we're not even seeing something that is even marginally below what a market rental would go for is pretty shocking to me, when we're talking about 1,115 new units in a master development plan. I'm hard-pressed to think of another master development plan that I have seen during my time on Council that didn't come with any kind of below-market rentals."

Djonlic acknowledged that Giordano was correct in noting that there is no rental requirement for the site in the City's Official Community Plan (OCP), but also pointed out that the Province recently introduced a new bill pertaining to inclusionary zoning and that perhaps Coquitlam should introduce a requirement.

"If [the below market rentals] can't come voluntarily with a carrot approach, maybe we need to take a stick approach," he said.

Getting To A Building Permit Submission

Giordano concluded his presentation by saying that Ledingham McAllister needed help from the City.

"Help us offset what our friends in the provincial government have done," he said. "You guys are obviously very familiar with all the bills that they put forth and the provincial mandate. All the bills that have come forward have made work on your staff extremely difficult. It made moving projects forward and creating much needed housing extremely difficult. That is about to get harder. The BC Building Code that came into play this year [along with adaptability and seismic requirements coming into effect in March 2025] has created a catastrophe. The challenge that we have at hand is all the units we have in this building will not be acceptable under the 100% adaptability rule."

He added that what LedMac wants to do is to submit a building permit before the March 2025 deadline when the new regulations come into effect. If they cannot, Giordano says each unit of the project is going to cost between $70,000 and $100,000 more. He had also said earlier that the best way to get below-market rental units is to expedite market rental units, because they will become below-market units soon after they are constructed, as market rents continue to rise.

"What I'm coming and humbly asking is for your support — to support staff and allow them to get engineering working with us now on this, so we can confirm invert elevations, we can figure out even just the high level schematics that are needed. Let the planner work with us in biweekly meetings so we can flush out all the details that we need to do to move these forward and preserve these units. Authorize staff to work with us in a manner that they can accept a building permit submission prior to this March deadline."

One of the towers currently planned for Phase One of Stratford Wynd.One of the towers currently planned for Phase One of Stratford Wynd.(Arcadis IBI Group / Ledingham McAllister)

On this issue, it was Councillor Robert Mazzarolo who was most frustrated.

"You were here a year ago and Council gave you six items that we wanted to see," he said. "You came back and you've given us two of them — I'm gonna get to the two that you've decided to do. But if you gave the rest of them, which I think was entirely plausible here and entirely workable, I think this would've sailed right through. Who's causing the delay here?"

Mazzarolo told Giordano that nobody is going to get special treatment. Giordano later specified that they were not asking for their application to be processed faster, or to jump the line, but rather for support to help them submit their building permit application faster.

At one point, City Manager Raul Allueva also chimed in and acknowledged the position LedMac is in, but said that his staff is already "overwhelmed" with the amount of work they have to do to meet various deadlines set by various levels of government, to implement changes mandated by new policies, on top of their regular work of processing applications.

Outstanding Items

Mazzarolo eventually dove into the six items Council asked for previously, noting that the two that LedMac addressed — the dog run and designated pick-up/drop-off spaces for the child care facility — amounted to not much more than "changing colours on a map," while the remaining four were rejected.

"Essentially what your argument here is 'If you don't put it in the bylaw, we're not gonna do it,'" said Mazzarolo. "That's essentially what you're saying. [...] The OCP is the OCP already, but you're asking for an amendment to the OCP — to change this. So, why is it that if we don't ask for it in the bylaw, you're not gonna provide it, but what we've already got in the bylaw, the OCP, you feel like you don't need to follow that and you can go above and beyond it, because it's to your benefit? Why?"

Mazzarolo and Giordano also went back and forth regarding empty units Giordano said Ledingham McAllister had in Coquitlam, which it was having trouble renting out, despite lowering asking rents. Giordano said this was because the units — three-bedroom units — were the wrong kind of units. Mazzarolo implied that there was more to the story and that it was more likely that the rents LedMac was asking for were just still too high.

Another point of contention was with the greenway connection to Maple Creek Middle School that Council had asked for and Giordano called "a burden that our project cannot handle." He also reiterated multiple times that after hearing Council make the ask, City staff informed them in writing that the connection was not a requirement of rezoning or subdivision, which was why they didn't address it.

Mazzarolo concluded his remarks, and the Council discussion, by saying that Ledingham McAllister is free to do whatever they please with their application, but that he would suggest they listen to what Council is now telling them they want to see.

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