Medium Density?

At the Garden City lands “open house” event at South Arm Community Centre today, a public relations person approached a Garden City Lands Coalition member to criticize a “mistake” in Your Garden City Lands: Open Space or High Density?, the coalition flyer.

Well, in view of the error-prone display boards at the open houses, the coalition should be allowed a few errors. But let’s examine the supposed mistake before we deduct it from the coalition’s allowance.

On the front page of the flyer, the coalition states that well over half the Garden City lands would become “high-density residential and commercial development.” In contrast, the forces that oppose ALR protection for the lands keep calling the development “medium density.” Who is right?

Before responding, we must first note that those forces have promoted the development as residential. In addition, the purchase agreement mentions “commercial or residential development” for the TEC lands, the large area that might have been used for a trade and exhibition centre. Now let’s move on to the facts of the matter.

In Richmond’s zoning bylaw, “High-Density Residential” is much less dense than the proposed development. (The technical details: High-Density Residential has a maximum floor area ratio, or FAR, of 2.0, and there is an additional 0.2 for amenities. Under the Garden City lands agreements, the average FAR is 2.0 to 2.5, and one can bet that the actual density would be near the high end—2.5 plus an amenities bonus.)

Yesterday, Cecilia Achiam of Richmond’s Development Department helpfully told me that the Garden City lands zoning would be C7, which is “Downtown Commercial District.” It has a maximum FAR of 3.0 plus an additional 0.3 for amenities. Buildings up to 147 feet high can cover up to 90% of each lot. From a Smart Growth perspective, one can possibly make a case for that very high density in the core of the city, but it’s a safe bet that few citizens would want it to spread to the Garden City lands. Ms. Achiam’s revelation speaks volumes.

It should be noted that the development agrements would still limit much of the construction to what has been called “mega-density.” On average, mega-density would be midway between High-Density Residential and Downtown Commercial District. However, the City will be losing 10.2 acres of “TEC Lands” to the developers (bringing the shares to less than 58 acres for the City and more than 78 acres for the developers). The development on those 10.2 acres could be at the full Downtown Commercial density.

Here’s a question for the Richmond Development Department:
Is either of the following medium density?

a.      A floor area ratio of 2.5, which is 25% higher than High-Density Residential

b.     Downtown Commercial District density

If the answer is no, would you please help set clear up the false information that the proposed Garden City lands development would have medium density?

Whether we are paid civil servants or citizens doing unpaid community service, surely we all want the people of Richmond to be able to make up their minds on such an important issue—the removal of the Garden City lands from ALR protection—on the basis of true information.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Olga Says:

    I just tried to fill in an online Garden City Lands Feedback Form provided on the City of Richmond web-site on the bottom of the page with the Open Houses information. I oppose any housing and commercial development on this land and want it to stay in the Agricultural Land Reserve as they allow using this land as a park or other green space and protect it against development. City of Richmond claims that this form is part of an ongoing public outreach and consultation process regarding the future of the Garden City Lands, but I found that it is designed that way that I could not correctly express my opinion. There are predetermined answers there and if you do not want to choose one of them the form doesn’t work and won’t let you to submit it. This is not the fair way to conduct the research but the manipulation by the public voices. I did not expect that people from the City Hall will behave that way. It is the breach of the public trust.

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