A rezoning application for a 2,587-unit development project is headed to Port Moody council, despite the lukewarm feelings of some of the city’s land use committee.
The Wesgroup Properties project would build six towers, ranging between 26 and 31 storeys, over nearly 15 acres in the Coronation Park Neighbourhood flanking Newport Village and Suter Brook.
But significant problems were voiced by some on the committee, including the lack of affordable and rental units, limited child care space, and the usage of the park being proposed.
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However, two committee members, Jeff McLellan and Stirling Ward, said Wesgroup had already met the demands made by the former city council, and the proposal should be endorsed as is.
Ward claimed the long process was “an embarrassment for the city, reputation-wise.”
“It’s a major project that has gone through so many hoops already,” Ward said. “Our job here is: does it comply with the (Official Community Plan) amendment that has been approved already? … And it has.”
Wesgroup applied for an OCP amendment in 2020 to allow the project to go forward; it was eventually approved by council in April 2022, contingent on a list of demands.
The company sent a letter on Jan. 27, stating every one of these demands had been met.
The latest proposal includes a 2.5-acre park, two daycares with 194 childcare spaces, over 100,000 sq-ft. of commercial space, a four-storey office building, a 2,000 sq-ft. civic building that would be granted to the city, and a pedestrian overpass.
Space for an estimated 540 jobs would be created, according to Wesgroup’s estimates, not including those working from home.
Still, other committee members had serious concerns about the small amount of rental and affordable space being offered.
At build out, with construction anticipated to take 10 years, 2,587 units would be built, estimated to provide homes for 4,657 residents.
While Wesgroup would be offering a permanent rent-to-own program – in which a portion of a tenant’s annual rent would be held for a potential down payment – only 3.8 percent (101 units) of the total are purpose-built rentals.
Committee member Sarah Wellman, though agreeing with Ward about not delaying moving the application forward, said that it’s not an acceptable amount of rentals.
“Really, that’s not OK,” Wellman said. “We need a lot more rental units, and we need significant affordable housing.”
City staff voiced similar concerns, but are recommending the site plan overall. They are requesting rental units be increased, and suggesting the amount of office space be increased to help the city reach its economic development targets.
Committee member Jonathan Leigh echoed Wellman’s concerns on affordable housing, adding that if density could be increased, he’d rather it go toward more rental units.
He pointed out only 10 percent of the rental units are being set aside for seniors.
Committee member Bill Parneta said he was worried over the costs related to maintaining the park. He suggested its location would essentially make it exclusive to tower residents.
“The taxpayers are the ones who will be paying for the operation of the park, and it’s almost a private park,” Parneta said.
Committee member Barbara Junker said she didn’t think there were enough childcare spaces for the amount of multi-units.
She said the small number of three-bedroom rental units was “very disappointing.”
“There’s been a lot of talk about families not being able to afford to go into the housing market. So two bedrooms, it doesn’t really cut it.”
The only committee member who opposed sending the application forward for council’s consideration was former council candidate Dave Stuart.
Stuart said that it was too important a project to just “sweep by” to council, and they should try to shape it through the committee as much as possible.
“My concern is that this is too much without real benefit to Port Moody,” Stuart said. “What does this do for affordability other than produce market housing?
“There’s nothing in here for folks that can’t afford $2,000 to $4,000 rents, or $1,000,000 homes.”
He asked if the city has had an independent financial consultant to review the profits resulting from the development.
Staff said the process was underway.