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Cemetery construction traffic rankles residents

The movement of dump trucks from a construction project at Forest Lawn Cemetery along a nearby residential street has been a contentious issue for neighbours.  - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
The movement of dump trucks from a construction project at Forest Lawn Cemetery along a nearby residential street has been a contentious issue for neighbours.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

People living near Forest Lawn Cemetery are on edge due to the prospect of heavy truck traffic returning as construction continues on new plots.

A large delegation attended Monday's council meeting to hear area resident Ron Thompson speak against the truck traffic.

The first phase of construction started last spring and resulted in numerous heavy trucks, including dump trucks, cement trucks, flatbeds and semi-trailers, entering and exiting the cemetery on Moscrop Street.

Following resident complaints, Burnaby city bylaw officers ticketed the truckers which led them to use the cemetery's north entrance instead for the remainder of that construction phase. Thompson noted that the north entrance is actually closest to Burnaby's designated truck route on Canada Way and offers the widest driveway.

Residents on Royal Oak, Moscrop and Oaktree Court learned about Phase 2 of the project just last month and renewed concerns about the safety of pedestrians, especially children heading to nearby Gilpin elementary and teens on their way to  Burnaby Central secondary.

Moscrop was closed off years ago after construction of Deer Lake Parkway and is now developed as a pedestrian and cycling corridor complete with a picnic table and hockey and basketball courts, Thompson said.

"There will be a tragedy if this is allowed to go ahead," he said.

A proposed truck routing plan set out during a meeting between Burnaby city staff, contractors and traffic consultants hired by Forest Lawn would see the trucks enter at Royal Oak's southern entrance and exit via the one on Moscrop.

Thompson said it doesn't make sense why the northern entrance can't be used since the construction is taking place at the northwestern end of the cemetery site, it's closest to the truck route and has the least impact on area residents.

The truck traffic is expected to continue for up to 90 days, six days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. All the staging work will take place on cemetery property and not on Moscrop as it was last year.

The delegation showed council video footage taken last year of the trucks using the Moscrop entrance, illustrating their concerns about noise from engine brakes, dust and truck drivers not stopping at the cemetery's stop sign.

Mayor Derek Corrigan said he sympathized with the residents but "we're dealing with the reality of being jurisdictionally frustrated."

In the past, city hall has opposed the cemetery's expansion plans, even taking it to court to prevent the removal of trees, he said. But the city lost due to the fact the provincial government controls cemeteries.

Regarding the current project, Corrigan said, "Are we happy about it? No. Would we stop it if we could? Yes we would, but we can't."

He said city staff would attempt to find the best solution under the circumstances.

"This is not a plot by city council, excuse the pun, in order to try and make your lives miserable."

Coun. Nick Volkow, a truck driver himself, said he was unaware of the situation and noted Burnaby has the power to enforce its own truck bylaw.

Volkow said he also believes the northern cemetery entrance make the most sense.

Engineering director Barry Davis said staff would review the delegation's comments and prepare a report to council on the issue.

Meanwhile, Jarma Del Rosario, general manager of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, expressed frustration at the process.

"We went to the city and hired a traffic consultant to get everybody on board and had a signed agreement from the city saying the best route for us would be to use the bottom and the side entrances," Del Rosario said in an interview Tuesday.

After reaching that agreement "all of a sudden" the council meeting occurred and city staff said they would revisit the agreement, she said.

Forest Lawn hired a traffic consultant to help find a solution after last year's complaints. The consultant determined the northern gate would not be the best choice because of the amount of traffic already there, she said.

"It's busy, it's operationally busy, that's a busy intersection."

The project is to develop another section of plots "to meet the demand of the community," she said.

"We're working with the city and the neighbours to find out the safest, best route for our trucks to exit and enter the park during construction. We've been nothing but cooperative with the city."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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