Future of Moody Centre neighbourhood raises concern from province; mayor responds

photo supplied The West End

Low and slow might be good strategy for barbecue but it’s the wrong way to build around a SkyTrain, according to a recent letter from the provincial government to Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov.

Reducing allowable density around Moody Centre SkyTrain station would be “inconsistent with regional goals and best practices for land use around rapid transit,” according to the letter, which was signed by Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming, Minister of Municipal Affairs Nathan Cullen, as well as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman.

The province took issue with a city survey concerning land-use around the station.

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“While one of these scenarios proposes additional densities . . . our understanding is that three of the scenarios propose a reduction in the amount of density and opportunities for housing in the area,” the letter stated. The province is “concerned,” particularly given the region’s critical need as well as Port Moody’s need for approximately 2,975 new housing units including a range of family-friendly units, market rentals and non-market housing.

In an email to the Dispatch, Vagramov explained that no one is arguing in favour of eliminating condos from the Moody Centre plan.

“All we did was ask the public what they think the level of density should be, considering we already exceed our unit needs, per the report quoted by the ministers,” he wrote.

It’s understandable the province wants to “maximize the dollar value of the land they hold in Moody Centre,” Vagramov responded. However, there are more urgent principles at stake, the mayor contended.

“The City of Port Moody directly asked every household in the city what they envision for their Official Community Plan,” Vagramov wrote. “Unless the province usurps the public’s power to decide the future of their own communities, it will be the public – not the developers, landowners, or provincial ministers – who will be making these decisions. If that’s not democracy, I don’t know what is.”

Vagramov noted developments in the pipeline at Woodland Park, Coronation Park and Parcel D in Suter Brook, in addition to projects by Mosaic and Marcon, adding that the amount of units being built should be a “great relief” for the ministers.

Since 2018, the Ministry of Transportation has been working with other property owners to seek a rezoning around Moody Centre SkyTrain, according to the letter.

Regarding future investments in rapid transit, the letter emphasized the province will look for cities that are: “committed to working with us to maximize the potential of SkyTrain to develop higher density transit-oriented communities.”

After noting the $583-million the provincial government put toward the Evergreen extension, the letter asks Vagramov to take the province’s concerns into account.

“The City of Port Moody has a valuable role to play in achieving and supporting regional population growth, and ensuring that the area around the Moody Centre Station is a key component of this,” the letter stated.

Vagramov added that he’s planning to meet with the ministers shortly.

In 2019

Vagramov previously stated that – while development will include both market and luxury condos – the focus of the neighbourhood should be on employment and affordable housing.

“The public is wondering what’s taking so long, the developers want to sit down and compare plans . . . and in both cases we look like a chicken with its head cut off,” he said.

image supplied

Population largely unchanged

Despite adding 285 new units of housing, Port Moody’s population dropped by 16 people between 2016 and 2021.

During the same period, the population of Coquitlam rose 6.7 percent and Port Coquitlam’s population increased 4.9 percent.

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