City hall's plans to build a transit-oriented urban village around the Brentwood C-Train stop is causing controversy. Last month, the city's planning commission approved the Brentwood Station Area redevelopment plan which now awaits approval by council. It is a 30-year plan that would develop Brentwood, a 1960s-era suburb, into medium- and high-rise apartment buildings to decrease urban sprawl. The city is also planning construction of at least two office towers in the University Heights suburb, near the Stadium Shopping Centre. It would double the population of the community to 12,000 people.
Brentwood and Varsity community associations are rallying against the plan, fearing that the city is moving too quickly. They are concerned about impacts on the community including traffic gridlock, overcrowded transit platforms, a spike in crime and decades worth of construction.
In a letter to the Community Association, city planning, development and assessment committee general manager David Watson explained the city does not believe a transportation impact assessment and a mobility action plan analysis are necessary before the approval. Vca civic affairs sub-committee chairman Dick Averns strongly disagreed and argued these two studies are needed before council can approve the changes.
"A guiding principle of transit-oriented development plans is that they will respect existing stable communities such as Brentwood and Varsity," said Averns. "We fully understand the impact of the new development and ensure the community is not fragmented by new roads or overburdened with traffic, you have to know if the roads can support the proposed growth. It sets a bad example if this plan proceeds to city approval without traffic analysis, for Brentwood is the first of six development plans under review."
Averns admitted that there are some great ideas behind the plan since there is demand for environmentally friendly development. However, he pointed out that there are issues such as a lack of parking, the possibility of high-rise buildings overshadowing family houses and lack of green spaces that need to be addressed. Ward 7 Alderman Druh Farrell said the city is working on addressing their concerns, but defended the Brentwood redevelopment plan.
"The community concerns of spillover parking can be addressed by applying parking restrictions on residential streets," said Farrell. "However, the point is to create a vital community where people do not need a car. They're looking at this as a way to stop the urban sprawl situation in the city."
Farrell explained that the city is reducing the height of some apartment buildings so they won't tower over family homes. They are also working on establishing traffic control measures like lights and speed bumps. She added there would be more green space and parks in the new Brentwood development since most of it is a giant parking lot right now.
"The Brentwood redevelopment plan is based off of similar models seen in Toronto, Houston, Los Angeles, Portland, San Diego and hundreds of other cities," said Farrell.
Averns speculated the city is planning without analysis because of the affordable housing crisis. The project is already behind its original timeline for approval.
Last Saturday, 250 Brentwood residents attended a town hall meeting where many denounced the Brentwood redevelopment plan.
U of C fourth-year history student Jon Stone is currently living in Brentwood and said he liked the plan, but acknowledged it is possible that nothing will happen for the next 30 years. He is unsure of how the plan would affect him personally.
"It also seems to address the issue of increased population with the creation of more stores and things like a farmer's market," said Stone. "Certainly, it would change the community of Brentwood, but change is not inherently bad. It does serve two notable goals-- attempting to help solve the problem of urban sprawl and more housing closer to the university-- which is pretty awesome."