Port Moody bylaw would speed up development process by skipping sluggish committee review

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Port Moody council has taken its first steps to quicken development in the city, moving forward an amendment that would allow projects to skirt the committee process if there are delays.

The city’s land use committee and advisory design panel are having trouble scheduling the required meetings, holding up developments for “months and months,” according to staff.

“We need to make a change, we need to fix this problem,” said Mayor Meghan Lahti. “These applicants have a right to see due process.”

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Development applications are required to go through the two committees for review before being presented to the council. 

Moved forward on Nov. 15, the amendment changes the language in the development approval bylaw to make the committee review optional.

Both committees have had trouble achieving quorum – the minimum number of members required to conduct business, staff said. 

This had led to a string of cancelled meetings and a backlog of applications.

“The land use committee only has two or three people that are actually active members,” said Kate Zanon, general manager of community development. “Some applications have been trying to move forward since July.”

Structural changes to the city’s various committees were at the top of Lahti’s list during her inaugural speech on Nov. 1, when she announced that most were on hold until a new strategic plan could be completed.

The bylaw and the committee structure will be revisited again in January, when council looks at further adjustments and a more in-depth review of the development process, Lahti said. 

“If those particular committees are going to proceed, then we need to get more members,” she said, adding she wants quick reform. 

“We need to be really thinking about what kind of changes we want to make.”

The majority of councillors did, however, voice some concerns about the incoming changes.

Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said the amendment doesn’t distinguish between a three-unit and a 3,000-unit application, and the latter should require committee review.

She cast the lone vote in against making the change.

As a former committee member, Coun. Callan Morrison said he saw “huge value” in the process, and the less rigid requirements could diminish the committee process.

Likewise, Couns. Samantha Agtarap and Amy Lubik both said they were concerned the change could be seen as an opportunity to try to circumvent committees entirely.

All were in favour of passing a resolution that set stricter guidelines regarding when an application could skip straight to council.

Lahti said moving the amendment forward would allow further discussion as they create a new strategic plan.

The amendment was described as an “interim change,” by Coun. Diana Dilworth, who noted it could be changed again in the near future as the entire development process is up for review in early 2023.

“A six-month delay on an application, regardless of its size, encourages additional costs to applicants, which ultimately impacts the affordability of the residential units that are being built,” Dilworth said. “Unfortunately, it’s because of issues at our end.”

Council unanimously voted in favour of a resolution that requires developers to try to schedule at least two meetings with the committees before their applications could bypass the committees.

Staff were directed to report back in three months on the number of applicants in queue.

The amendment requires one more formal vote from council before being adopted.

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