Port Moody approves midrise St. Johns project, boosts affordability

It’s two six-storey buildings and it’s 10 units of affordable housing.

One year after it was delayed and subsequently revamped, Port Moody council approved a 197-unit project at the 3100-block of St. Johns, St. George and Buller streets in a 5-2 vote Tuesday.

The project includes six units set to be rented at rates considered affordable for someone on income assistance. If the units were to be rented today, a one-person household would be charged $375 per month.

Those shelter units are “sorely lacking in this community,” said Coun. Amy Lubik, noting the people who spent the coldest portion of last winter sheltering in the Kyle Centre.

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“Maybe now there’ll be an opportunity for them to have long-term housing,” she said.

The project also includes four units where rent is geared to income, allowing someone who earns $30,000 a year to pay $750 per month.

The shelter-rate units and the geared-to-income units are slated to be provided to not-for-profit society the Bloom Group for $1 per unit. The arrangement is to remain in place for 60 years or for the life of the building.

The project also includes a 49-space daycare set to be leased for $1 per year to the YMCA for 20 years. However, while that childcare is needed, it should be moved to the second floor, according to Coun. Steve Milani, who voted against the project.

“It does anything but activate that street frontage along St. Johns,” Milani said.

Milani also criticized the design. By failing to step back the top two storeys, the project resembles: “another one of these straight-up six-storey walls,” he said.

Milani also noted that the area has a maximum of building height of three storeys. Many area residents, some of whom he said were likely fatigued by the municipal process, were “not impressed” with the building height, he added.

While there were some concerns voiced, primarily about the massing of the building and the resulting traffic, many of Tuesday’s speakers backed the project.

Council heard from a nurse who said the development could offer her a chance to move back to Port Moody after being priced out of the city.

“I would be significantly impacted by this development,” said neighbour Eric Hedekar. “For the better.”

It makes sense to allow a six-storey development in the area, Hedekar said.

“It’s frustrating to hear our elected representatives ignore this neighbourhood’s desire for growth,” he said. “It is walkable to transit and brings much needed amenity and commercial space to what is currently luxury detached houses.”

The project’s density is needed to allow for childcare and for shelter-rate housing, Coun. Diana Dilworth said.

“If the city can get behind this and support the density, that’s what’s going to make this partnership come true,” she said, crediting the developer for essentially “giving away” childcare space.

The project also includes 12 rent-to-own units.

The proposal passed 5-2 with Milani and Mayor Rob Vagramov opposed.

image supplied

Last year

The project was approaching a definitive vote in May 2021 when three councillors checked out of the Zoom meeting in apparent frustration.

Thirty minutes before the meeting was set to begin, the applicant sent an email requesting a postponement to re-evaluate the proposal. Coun. Meghan Lahti’s subsequently motion to defer the hearing failed in a 3-3 vote. (Coun. Amy Lubik did not attend the meeting.)

“This is so unfair to an applicant who has said they’re not prepared,” Dilworth said at the time. “We’re forcing them to go through a process.”

“I found it a little bit disrespectful to the process that this [request to revise the proposal] was made beyond the 11th hour,” Vagramov said.

The Pooni Group elected to revise the proposal, essentially re-starting the process. The application that was approved Tuesday includes four more non-market rental units.


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