Laneway homes, duplex suites proposed at testy Burnaby council meeting

Councillors clashed over procedure and priorities

Laneway homes and secondary suites in duplexes could both be coming to Burnaby in the new year.

Rezoning to allow the two types of housing could bring in-fill rental density to a city that has focused most of its efforts on densifying its city centres with large condo towers. 

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The city’s new mayor, Mike Hurley, campaigned on a promise to explore the ideas as possible tools to alleviate the region’s ongoing housing crisis. Former mayor Derek Corrigan also said he would consider the idea but told the NOW during the campaign he was concerned about the potential effects on parking.

Coun. Dan Johnston, who ran alongside Corrigan with the Burnaby Citizens Association, brought the ideas forward during a Monday council meeting, but his strategy for advancing them led to a testy exchange between councillors and a rare split vote.

Johnston wanted to add the items to a motion first presented by Coun. Pietro Calendino at the previous meeting. Calendino’s motion asks staff to plan for bylaw amendments allowing larger basement suites.

“I think that the public has been asking council to look at all of these and I think they kind of tie together,” Johnston said. “And, for staff’s perspective, it would just be easy to look at all three at the same time, as opposed to just authorizing cellars because I think they’re pretty similar in nature.”

Calendino had wanted his motion to go through at last Monday’s council meeting but relented as it would have required unanimous support to pass at the same meeting where it was first proposed. 

When that motion came up for a vote a week later, Johnston wanted to amend it so staff would study expanded suites, laneway homes and suites in duplexes all at the same time. 

Calendino did not like that. He said he supported Johnston’s ideas on their own merits but wanted his motion to proceed on its own.

Calendino told the NOW he thought Johnston’s amendment was “probably a way to derail or delay the original motion.” 

Coun. Colleen Jordan said she was “very disappointed” Calendino refused to support amending his motion.

In the end, Johnston's amendment failed and Calendino’s motion passed on its own with Johnston, Jordan and Coun. Paul McDonell opposed – a rare contentious moment from a council that votes unanimously on most issues. 

Johnston then presented a separate notice of motion. At a future meeting, council will vote on whether to direct staff to study laneway homes and duplex suites.

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