A developer hopes to build two six-storey apartment buildings on the site currently occupied by the Abbotsford News.

A developer hopes to build two six-storey apartment buildings on the site currently occupied by the Abbotsford News.

Large Abbotsford apartment development approved

Residents concerned about lack of visitor parking, but staff say fewer spaces allow trees to stay

Council gave the go-ahead Monday to one of the city’s largest proposed apartment projects in recent years, despite neighbours’ concerns about parking.

A developer plans to build two six-storey apartment buildings on the prominent east Abbotsford site currently occupied by The News. The two buildings would include 282 apartments.

The project will be accompanied with significant roadwork around the tangled intersection of South Fraser Way, Sumas Way and Gladys Avenue.

To gain approval from the city and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure – which regulates any building near highways – the developer has pledged to construct a third southbound lane and a sidewalk on Highway 11 between South Fraser Way and Marshall Road. New on- and off-ramps from South Fraser Way to Gladys Avenue will also be constructed, as will a multi-use trail north to Old Yale Road.

The developer had requested to be allowed to provide just half the number of visitor parking spaces normally allowed.

Residents of the quiet roads immediately to the project’s west said they were worried that the development would cause traffic and parking problems in the area.

They said they were worried that visitors would end up parking on their increasingly crowded streets. Others said increased traffic would make it less safe to exit Lumar Place.

Another woman said she worried that increasing the speed of traffic along the underpass would create danger for the pedestrians who currently use it.

“When you go under that overpass, you know you’re going to stop at the top, and it’s a good thing because so often there are people walking,” she said. “You really have to be careful with that, because when you open that up as a free lane, someone’s going to get hit.”

Several residents who live near Old Yale Road said they were worried the trail improvements would increase crime in their area and result in homeless people camping along the path.

The city’s director of development planning, Darren Braun, said visitor parking calculations were set with the needs of smaller buildings in mind. Larger complexes, he said, generally require fewer spaces because they can realize economies of scale. He said there was room for more parking, but that would require cutting down a row of trees deemed to be of more value.

“The trade-off was trees versus parking,” he said. “They could absolutely put more parking on the site; it just eliminates a very large row of trees.”

As for the concerns about crime, Coun. Sandy Blue suggested that creating the new path along Highway 11 could help to bring more eyes on the stretch and increase residents’ feeling of safety.

The News expects to move to another site once the construction date approaches.

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