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YVR seeks to ‘collaborate’ on Sea Island

Vancouver International Airport officials who have cautioned the City of Richmond for approving new homes in high aircraft noise areas of City Centre are now talking collaboration.

In a letter to the city commenting on council’s recently-approved 2041 Official Community Plan, Anne Murray said working with city planners could “identify potential complementarities.”

“For example, could the Russ Baker Way lands become the neighbourhood shopping centre for the new residential communities across the river? Are there other commercial developments suitable for that land that would be considered a community amenity?” said Murray, Vancouver Airport Authority’s vice-president of community and environmental affairs, in a Nov. 9 letter.

A 21.5-hectare (53-acre) airport-controlled site on Russ Baker Way is now without a plan, after the airport authority abandoned it as a location for a premium designer outlet mall, choosing land next to Templeton Station instead.

Coun. Bill McNulty, chair of council’s planning committee, isn’t so sure Sea Island is the place for another shopping centre.

“We have to have shopping along the Canada Line,” he said. “I think we need to have the shopping malls, like we have at Ackroyd, Richmond Centre, Lansdowne, adjacent to the Canada Line.”

Something the city should be discussing with the airport is building height restrictions, said McNulty, who stressed the need to maintain existing neighbourhoods of single-family homes.

“I believe we should be looking at going higher in the community when we’re building apartments. I think we’re selling ourselves short. We don’t have more land, we do have the height and the airspace.”

The Official Community Plan, approved unanimously by council Nov. 19, details how land throughout Richmond will be used over the next three decades—and how the city should be built. Planners are banking on a big uptake in public transit use, envisioning vehicle trips being cut by nearly half by 2041.

Nonetheless, the airport said future transportation demands need further study.

“In particular, given the significant growth in population forecast for the City Centre we are concerned about increasing commuter use of Russ Baker Way corridor negatively impacting airport related traffic,” said Murray in her letter.

Murray also told the city there’s a need to preserve 24-hour airport operations, and said the city should ensure development doesn’t affect possible airport expansion, such as a south parallel runway. She further noted the community plan’s definition of the airport should be updated.

“We think of YVR as a multi-product, multi-service enterprise or platform where Richmond touches the world.”

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