British Columbia

Voters to help decide future of Port Moody development

Port Moody voters will help decide the future of two city-owned properties in a referendum ballot in the Oct. 20 municipal election.

The fate of the city-owned lands has been contentious

The city-owned site of Port Moody's former firehall has been vacant since 2014. (Margaret Gallagher)

Port Moody voters could help decide the future of development in a key part of the city.

The Oct. 20 civic election includes a non-binding referendum ballot that asks if voters support the sale or lease of two plots of city-owned land in order pay for city improvements.

The fate of the city-owned lands has been contentious, with some residents expressing concern about the pace of development in Port Moody and the sale of the land to private developers.

Others welcome the potential new housing and other amenities the sale would bring

The land in question includes the site of the former fire hall at Murray Street and Ioco Road, which has been vacant and surrounded by steel fencing since the firehall moved to another address four years ago.

The site also includes a city works yard, which is slated to be moved in the future. The combined size of the land totals more than 201,000 square feet.

Pay for city improvements

Port Moody's mayor, Mike Clay, wants to explore selling the land in order to pay for city improvements such as a new library and affordable housing, including rental and seniors housing.

"It's right in the urban centre, accessible to transit, a short walk to a SkyTrain station, it's got all the amenities within walking distance," says Clay, who is running for re-election.

Clay says the property could potentially support up to 800 new residents in a neighbourhood that already includes major housing and shopping developments.

Development of the land was identified as a priority in Port Moody's 2015-2018 strategic plan.

In April 2018, following a lengthy public hearing, council deferred a proposal to rezone the land from public to institutional use and referred the issue to a referendum.

Candidates disagree on potential sale

Mayoral candidate Rob Vagramov, who is a city councillor, opposes the sale of the city-owned lands. Vagramov said the sale would bring "a one-time shot of cash" to pay for some facilities that are overdue. But he argued the city should have planned how to pay for these services long ago.

Vagramov worries that development of the site would exceed the Official Community Plan's already ambitious growth targets.

He would like to see the city consider other means to pay for amenities, such as developing partnerships with more senior levels of government. Vagramov also suggested that developers could provide money from what he describes as the "tsunami of development" that has occurred in recent years.

Or the municipality could work with organizations to build "something meaningful for the community."

"These are options to be explored," said Vagramov. "I think that keeping these lands in public hands is our best opportunity to do that."

But Clay wants the city to continue to explore the possibility of leveraging the land for what he sees as the best returns for the community, including slowing growth elsewhere.

"One of the ways I think you preserve density in some of our historic neighbourhoods and single family neighbourhoods is to concentrate our growth where it should be," says Clay.

"As stewards of taxpayers' assets, I think we are doing the right thing by looking at it and seeing if this the time."

Voters will have a chance to offer their input in a non-binding referendum on October 20.

About the Author

Margaret Gallagher is the reporter for On the Coast and the host of Hot Air on CBC Radio One.

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