British Columbia

Port Moody and Anmore mayors feud over future of one of Metro Van's remaining undeveloped areas

It's not often disagreement between Metro Vancouver mayors spills so far out into the open — but that's what has happened in the case of Port Moody, Anmore, and the future of a 232-acre plot of land owned by a development company.

One leader says there's been a lack of consultation, the other calls it 'a cat fight on social media'

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov, left, and Anmore Mayor John McEwen, right, disagree over whether there was proper consultation when Port Moody moved to eliminate the potential for a new road to connect a proposed development. (CBC News)

It's not often that disagreement between Metro Vancouver mayors spills so far out into the open — but that's what has happened in the case of Port Moody, Anmore, and the future of a 232-acre plot of land shared between the two but owned by a developer.

"We have not been consulted at all," said Anmore Mayor John McEwen, the day after he wrote a public Facebook post, accusing Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov of misleading the public over discussions about the future of the land.

"I take their concerns seriously, but at the end of the day, I answer to the people of Port Moody and not John McEwen," said Vagramov. 

At issue are the Ioco Lands: a mostly forested area on the north end of the Burrard Inlet, purchased from Imperial Oil in 2015 at the height of the region's real estate craze. 

Half of the land is within Port Moody, a mostly urban municipality of around 35,000 people and half is in Anmore, a mostly rural area of about 2,200.

McEwen sees it as an opportunity to grow his community and keep it vibrant in the future.

"We're predominantly one-acre estates and with proximity to SkyTrain ... our property values have skyrocketed, so we need to be able to offer a diversity of housing, as well as a diversified tax base." 

The Ioco Lands bridge Port Moody and Anmore, but the two municipalities have different visions for what should be allowed. (City of Port Moody)

Ioco Land conundrum 

But Vagramov sees it very differently. 

"It's sort of an alarming example of the worst kind of car-dependent urban sprawl," he said, arguing the land is too far away from the region's urban core to attract people who don't own vehicles.   

"It involves clearcutting second growth forests and abandoning all transit oriented development principles."

As a result, the two municipalities have taken very divergent paths on how to deal with the Ioco Lands. 

Anmore has begun consultations for the "Burrard Commons," a proposed mixed-use development, with buildings up to 40 metres in height and up to 1,580 units of housing, more than half of which would have three bedrooms or more.  

At the same time, last week, Port Moody council moved ahead on keeping the current zoning for its portion of the land — single-family homes only — and removed the possibility of allowing a second arterial road connecting the two municipalities, which would have gone through a popular park. 

"This is obviously a right step as far as urban planning is concerned," argued Vagramov, who has centred his leadership around slowing down growth in Port Moody. 

The proposed 'Burrard Commons' development in Anmore would contain up to 1,580 units of housing, along with recreational and commercial amenities. (Burrard Commons)

Consultation doesn't mean agreement

McEwen argues that without a second arterial road connecting their communities, the current Ioco Road will become more clogged and more of a danger for emergency vehicles. 

And he alleges Port Moody hasn't followed the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed between the two councils in 2015, which said the two councils will "work together and exchange information ... on a timely basis," about issues that affect the Ioco Lands. 

"I'm not surprised," he said. 

"They seem to have a mandate they feel that they've been entitled to through the electorate, and sort of pushing wherever they want to go regarding this ... we just wish that we were consulted."

However, Vagramov pointed to a letter sent to Anmore by Port Moody's manager of policy planning in December, among other pieces of correspondence. And he argues that consultation doesn't mean agreement. 

"They seek to triple their population right on our border," he said. 

"Rather than starting a cat fight on social media, I invite John and his council to come in and finally discuss their development application and its massive implications — not just for Port Moody but for our entire region."

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