A proposed city-owned child-care facility has passed its first hurdle, but not without some pushback from a few councillors.
Staff presented the idea to council this week, suggesting the property at 6570 Deer Lake Ave. as the most viable option. That property is currently occupied by the Hill residence, a house that has been determined to be of limited heritage value.
Coun. Colleen Jordan, however, noted that property, bought by the city in 2006, has been slated for refurbishing to preserve the heritage value and for use as a city office building.
“In 2008, the heritage commission brought forward a report to council recommending … that we do a study, for which we apparently paid $20,000, to study an adaptive reuse of the cottage,” Jordan said.
While staff suggests the house is of “low” heritage value, the city bought the property for its heritage value, as it is an important artifact of Burnaby’s history, Jordan said, citing the 2008 report.
She added the 2019 budget included $80,000 to study renovating the cottage and another $800,000 budgeted for the actual renovation – money that was never spent. But only two weeks prior to this week’s meeting, council passed the 2020 budget, which allocated $80,000 for the study and $1 million for renovations.
“I’m just like, ‘What?’ Two weeks ago we passed a budget that said we were going to renovate the cottage,” Jordan said. “Then within days, we have a report saying, ‘Knock it down and build a child-care centre,’ which there’s nothing in this year’s budget that even references building a staff child-care centre.”
In the report to council, staff said the funding for putting a child-care centre in that location would be included in the 2021 budget.
“I’m really disturbed about the process around this,” Jordan said.
Coun. Paul McDonell said Deer Lake Avenue in that area is frequently backed up from drivers during the morning and afternoon commutes and “could be dangerous” for children.
Councillors also cited the large trees that occupy the front of the property, which they were concerned would have to be taken out to accommodate a child-care centre.
“I’m really upset about the fact that we’re going to take down 60-, 70-year-old trees that appear reasonably healthy,” Coun. Dan Johnston said, adding he’s “fully supportive” of a city-owned child-care centre for staff. “We have a tree bylaw, which is intended to preserve as much of that as we can, and here we’re taking them down for a building that could be necessarily located elsewhere.”
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, however, pointed to the need for child care in the region, saying the impact of years-long child-care waitlists makes it challenging for the city to attract young families and staff.
“This is our most appropriate, very easily accessible location there is, now,” he said.
Coun. Pietro Calendino also showed support for the centre at that property, saying staff has put the work in to find the best location.
City manager Lambert Chu told council staff was only able to confirm the location after the budget was approved. He added staff would bring forward a later report on measures to mitigate councillors’ concerns.
Only Johnston and Jordan voted against approving the location and a $3.5-million expenditure to build the centre.