Emotions ran high Monday afternoon at city hall as the long-awaited public hearing for the Oakridge Centre rezoning and redevelopment ran from early afternoon late into the evening.
With a list of 111 people signed up by the 2 p.m. start time, council chambers was overflowing with speakers and spectators looking either to voice their concerns or show their support.
After being moved up to the first item on the agenda, city planner Dwayne Drobot presented a slideshow outlining the proposed redevelopment and tried to ease concern over questions such as increased congestion on the Canada Line.
According to Drobot, TransLink could increase capacity by adding more trains and running them more often.
The topic that held the most weight with city councillors was the development’s proposed rooftop park. Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr even asked for a legal definition of a park according to the Vancouver Charter.
After questions from council, the lengthy list of speakers took their turn at the podium, with many of the first speakers in favour of the massive redevelopment.
“I strongly feel these developments will revitalize the mall,” said Oakridge retailer Liza Goguen.
Developer Victor Setton of Porte Development Corp. said the rezoning was the most practical way to redevelop a
But while the first half of the speakers lined up agreed the plan would benefit business, the first break in redevelopment support came from speaker number 40. Linda Leong, a resident of the Terraces residential complex attached to Oakridge, told a tale of the grim future heavy construction would bring to the area.
“A lot more can be done in order to engage us,” said Leong, who felt that residents have not been heard by the city and asked council to make a reasonable compromise.
The opposition to the redevelopment gained momentum when resident Bellie Wood took the podium and argued local residents would be affected by the noise and dust from the construction.
“Have you ever considered the health of the residents?” Wood asked. She challenged city staff and developers to swap homes with her during the 10 to 15 years of construction expected for the project.
After a dinner recess, the evening continued with a mix of speakers both in favour and opposed to the development, but the general theme was that residents wanted more consultation while business and industry professionals touted their support.
Hillcrest Community Centre association president Jesse Johl said that developers have no restrictions and that they were “trying to drop concrete jungles on communities.”
Rick Soo, the president of the Oakridge seniors centre, explained that their services were already being stretched to their limits and the redevelopment didn’t add any additional space.
Others in opposition said public amenity shortcomings had not been properly addressed by the plan, including daycare services, healthcare and parking availability.
The public hearing capped off at 10 p.m. Monday evening and the remaining speakers were scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, after the Courier’s print deadline.