Developers urge Vancouver to press ‘pause’ on Chinatown zoning changes

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WATCH: Vancouver considers scaling back Chinatown development – May 15, 2018

Ahead of a hearing on zoning changes to Vancouver’s Chinatown plan, a group representing the region’s developers is asking council to press pause.

Vancouver City Council will hold a public hearing on amending the community plan “to address community concerns about the changing character and the pace of development in Chinatown” on Thursday.

Amendments include limiting maximum building heights, putting in a maximum floor space ratio, adding requirements for non-residential uses and maximum widths for development sites and storefronts.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver proposes new height limits for Chinatown developments

The city wants to ban any new buildings taller than 90 feet, or about eight storeys.

But Urban Development Institute (UDI) president and CEO Anne McMullen argues that decisions of this magnitude, including limiting maximum heights, should wait until after the Oct. 20 municipal election.

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“It does call into question that a decision is made so close to an election and at the last minute, when an administration is potentially changing hands,” she said.

WATCH: Vancouver turns down controversial Chinatown development

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Vancouver turns down controversial Chinatown development – Nov 8, 2017

McMullin said the proposed changes deserve more thorough consideration.

“There should be a pause, and we go back and do an economic impact study to properly assess impacts of this proposed rezoning schedule,” she said.

The UDI argues that when developers bought land in the area, it was on the basis of the zoning — and building heights — that were already in place. McMullin said if they are significantly reduced, developers won’t be able to afford to build.

The Chinatown Business Improvement Association has also argued against the changes, warning that it does not want to see Chinatown turned into a “museum.”

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READ MORE: Proposed condo tower for 105 Keefer in Vancouver’s Chinatown defeated for 5th time

But activists on the other end of the spectrum say the area is being overrun with development.

“It’s just like the wild west right now,” Fred Ma with the Chinatown Society Heritage Buildings Association told Global News in a previous interview.

“What you’re losing is Chinatown’s character. When I say character I’m talking about not just the physical character, but the businesses. Traditional businesses.”

READ MORE: Park Board to weigh renewing ‘dead zone’ outside Vancouver’s Chinese gardens

Activists have also fought against the changes, winning a high profile battle against a proposed development at 105 Keefer St. last November.

Opponents raised concerns the development was too large, out of character with the neighbourood and that it would speed up gentrification in the area.

The City of Vancouver is pursuing a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for historic Chinatown. Before that can happen, a management plan must be put into place and development concerns resolved.

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