British Columbia·Metro Matters

Port Moody's new mayor has an agenda. Now he just needs the votes

Port Moody is among several mid-sized municipalities in Metro Vancouver where voters chose a mayor largely on development issues.

Unlike some Metro Vancouver leaders elected on 'slow-the-growth' promises, Rob Vagramov doesn't have a party.

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov says the results of the last election showed "a fundamental change in values" when it came to the pace of development. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Port Moody Mayor Robert Vagramov believes he has the political capital to enact his agenda. 

"What we saw in this election was a fundamental change in values," he said.

Vagramov defeated former mayor Mike Clay in October on a platform to slow down growth, often saying he didn't want the new Evergreen Line transforming Port Moody into Metrotown, a neighbourhood of Burnaby where towers have been built at a rapid rate. 

"I definitely do have a different vision for Port Moody than sort of the the templates that have been put out for us, as far as SkyTrain is concerned," he said. 

Port Moody is among several mid-sized municipalities in Metro Vancouver where voters chose a mayor largely on development issues.

But unlike White Rock or the District of North Vancouver, Vagramov may not always have the votes to carry out his agenda. 

Port Moody's Bert Flinn Park has a right of way designated for a possible future road, should the region need it to accommodate future population growth. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Tight votes

In February, Vagramov attempted to fast-track a key election promise: eliminating the possibility that a future road could go through Bert Flinn Park to accommodate future population growth in Anmore and the Ioco townsite. 

But the motion was eventually defeated 4-3, with a majority of councillors deciding further study was necessary. 

"I think on some of the big issues around development and growth, you're going to see that tension," said Diana Dilworth, one of the councillors who opposed removing it.

Dilworth said removing the right of way in Bert Flinn would cost $300,000, while the city is considering policy changes that would reduce the money it receives from development fees. 

"We want other things, like a new library, a new soccer field, a new senior centre," she said. "Without approving a lot of development, you're just not going to get that revenue into the city."

It seems likely in the long run that the right of way will be removed: one of the councillors who voted against Vagramov, Amy Lubik, says she supports its elimination "in the next little while". But it wasn't the first time Vagramov has been at policy odds with some councillors in his first few months.

His push to move some committee meetings to a private room where video recordings were impossible was quickly reversed. And the Tri-City News reported that a decision to reject 45 proposed townhomes was a 3-3 tie on council — failing due to a lack of a majority. 

An artist's rendition of what the Flavelle development on Port Moody's waterfront could look like when complete. (City of Port Moody )

Huge waterfront development

But the biggest decision council faces will likely be whether to reduce the scope of a planned development next to Rocky Point Park.

Currently home to a sawmill, council amended the Official Community Plan to allow up to 7,000 people and 11 towers on the site just last year, but Vagramov wants to reopen the decision.

"I've learned with real estate development that it's never a straight line," said Bruce Gibson, the vice president of real estate management for Aspen Enterprises, the company that owns the site.

Gibson said the company will continue to engage with the community, and hopes a balance can be struck.

Dilworth says she predicts a "raucous discussion" on the future of the site. Vagramov says he hopes to build consensus, but couldn't make any guarantees. 

"It's going to be nearly impossible to have everybody's voice equally represented," he said.

"Obviously at the end of the day there's a council vote on issues and sometimes there are folks that have their ideas implemented into the plan, and some folks who don't."

On Port Moody's big issues, it remains to be seen which side the mayor will be on. 

Metro Matters: On The Road is exploring how new city governments throughout B.C. are approaching age-old issues (some political, some not) in their communities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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