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March 30, 2012 / jenstden

Coquitlam councillor concerned about storm sewer pollution

Last week, Coquitlam city councillor Terry O’Neill was critical of the Recreation Council of B.C. for including the Coquitlam River on its list of endangered B.C. rivers. O’Neill says that the pollution described in the report – sediment that washes into the river from gravel pits and housing developments and makes the river murkier than it should be – has mostly been cleaned up.

Since making those comments, O’Neill has learned of another source of potential pollution of the river. O’Neill says a Coquitlam resident approached him with concerns about the city’s storm sewers, which drain into the river. The city does not currently test the sewers for pollutants, says O’Neill.

O’Neill will be bringing up this issue at an upcoming council meeting.

March 23, 2012 / jenstden

Growing pains of a new suburban neighbourhood

When I was a kid, we often drove from our kooky West Kootenay town to visit relatives who lived in the suburbs of Calgary and Edmonton.The god-awfulness of those housing developments – the sameness of the houses, the stunted trees, the nowhere-interesting-to-walk-to streets – has forever tainted my idea of the suburbs. The horror!!So it’s refreshing to learn about a new housing development that has been planned to include a mix of different housing types, and a more urban feel, with an emphasis on walking, cycling and public transit. Coquitlam’s Burke Mountain has long had a scattering of houses amongst the forest, but in 2006 the area began to be intensively developed.

The plan for Burke Mountain calls for a mix of single family houses, townhouses and apartment buildings. The aim is to include a variety of prices, from $250,000 townhouses to large, $800,000 houses.

With several different companies building housing, development is proceeding sporadically and more gradually than if this were a master-planned community being built by a single developer.

This has caused some growing pains. There is still no bus service at all on the mountain, and the residents are eagerly awaiting things like schools, which won’t be built until there are enough people living there.

You can read my full story here.

March 23, 2012 / jenstden

Coquitlam River shouldn’t be on endangered list, says councillor

In recent council meetings, Coquitlam city councillor Terry O’Neill has railed against banning pesticides and has questioned whether more stringent lawn watering restrictions are necessary. He continued his environmental skepticism today when he  blasted environmental group Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. and their Top Ten Endangered Rivers List in an interview with the Coquitlam Now today. O’Neill didn’t agree with the Outdoor Recreation Council’s assessment that the Coquitlam River was polluted.

According to the report, the river is facing excessive sediment loads, most of which is caused by gravel mining and neighbouring developments.

“As a result, there continues to be a need for a thorough review of current gravel operations and the strict enforcement of existing environmental legislation,” stated the report.

Coun. Terry O’Neill, who chairs the Coquitlam River aggregate committee, called the report “typical for green progaganda groups” and claimed it is not based on scientific fact.

“It’s an activist group trying to engage people’s emotions rather than presenting the facts – in order to get public support,” he said in an interview.

March 16, 2012 / jenstden

Parking rates to rise at Coquitlam Town Centre?

Coquitlam city council will be discussing whether parking rates should be raised at Coquitlam Town Centre at next Monday’s council meeting.

A staff report suggests raising the rate from 50 cents $1 per hour. The report notes that the $1 an hour rate is standard throughout Surrey, Burnaby and Vancouver (really!?)

Councillors will also be voting on adding an extra bylaw enforcement officer to patrol Coquitlam Town Centre parking lots.

Other items of interest:

March 16, 2012 / jenstden

Suburbs are greener than Vancouver when it comes to composting

Doesn't it look... delicious? Coquitlam will soon be testing out a food scraps program for condos and apartment buildings.

Port Coquitlam, New Westminster, and now Coquitlam continue to lead the charge on taking food scraps out of landfills.

Coquitlam already picks up food scraps from houses, and is set to start a pilot program to pick up food scraps from condos and apartment buildings within the year.

Coquitlam city council still needs to decide when the pilot will start, said Kath McLaughlin, a recycling and waste reduction officer with the City of Coquitlam.

McLaughlin said public education, finding space for extra bins, and attracting bears are some of the challenges of extending food scraps pick-up to apartment and condo buildings.

Coquitlam will be taking tips from neighbouring Port Coquitlam, which has been picking up food scraps from houses since 2007, and from apartments and condos since 2011.

New Westminster will also be expanding their food scraps pick-up program to include multi-family buildings.

Meanwhile, Vancouver continues to lag behind these suburban municipalities in food scraps pick-up. A limited pilot program to pick up food scraps from houses in the Riley Park-Sunset neighbourhood has been running since September 2011.

March 9, 2012 / jenstden

Cell phone towers: public should be consulted

Many Coquitlam residents want cellphone towers close, but not too close, to theirs homes, says Mayor Richard Stewart

Coquitlam residents want and need good cellphone service, but they also need to be consulted when new towers are built.

That was the crux of council’s discussion on what seemed at first glance to be an innocuous protocol proposal, at a city council meeting on March 5.

Hold on to your hats: the Proposed City of Coquitlam Wireless Communications Facilities Communications Protocol (phew!) would allow the city to take part in the decision-making process and give “input.” However, the city wouldn’t have any power to actually change decisions made by the cell phone carriers and Industry Canada.

Councillors Lou Sekora and Neal Nicholson spoke strongly on the need for public consultation, if not on the protocol itself, then on the issue of cell phone tower location.

“A lot of people might complain about health hazards,” said Coun. Sekora, “And we don’t have an overview here of where these facilities are going to be.”

Coun. Mae Reid was concerned that holding a public consultation would raise expectations that council has the power to change where cell phone towers are placed.

“We’re trying to develop a protocol that shows everyone how to play nice in the sandbox,” said Reid. “But if you want to jump in the sandbox and be a big meanie you don’t even need to participate in the protocol.”

Mayor Richard Stewart summed up his interpretation of the general public’s attitude towards cell phone towers.

“We all want a cellphone tower pretty close to us, but not too close to us,” said Stewart. “I want one closer to my home because I don’t get very good coverage, but I don’t want it too close to my home, I suspect.”

Stewart described the protocol as a “very limited tool that can have a very, very limited effect on the applicants [carriers like Telus or Bell].”

Information from Health Canada about cell phone tower safety can be found here.

March 9, 2012 / jenstden

Rose garden volunteers want exemption from pesticide ban

Volunteer gardeners want Coquitlam's Centennial Rose Garden to be temporarily exempted from a new pesticide ban

Rose garden volunteers asked for an exemption from the Coquitlam’s new ban on cosmetic pesticides at the Coquitam city council meeting on March 5.

Bev Walsh, chair of the Fraser Pacific Rose Society, said the exemption would prevent the roses from dying while the society works with the parks department to replace the roses with disease-resistant varieties.

“We want to get away from spraying toxic things on plants,” said Walsh, adding that apart from the once-a-year spraying to prevent a fungus that can kill the roses, rose garden volunteers only use organic gardening methods.

Coun. Mae Reid said she had heard concerns from other Coquitlam residents who need to use cosmetic pesticide once a year on their plants.

Coun. Selena Robinson, who pushed to get cosmetic pesticides banned, said she would support a temporary exemption for the Centennial Rose Garden, but not for other residents, calling the rose garden a “specific case.”

Council has asked city hall staff for a report on exempting the rose garden from the ban.