Port Moody green-lights James Road project

It was way too dense for some and a little too far for transit from others, but a six-storey apartment building will likely take shape on James Road following a nailbiter of a 6-1 vote at Tuesday night’s Port Moody council meeting.

Despite misgivings even from some the project’s proponents, council ultimately gave third reading to the project which will plunk 88 units on two lots at 148 and 154 James Road.

The project includes 26 units set to be rented out at 15 percent below market rental rates for at least 20 years; twice as many affordable units as were offered in a previous incarnation of the project.

Worrying precedent

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In casting the lone vote against the proposal, Coun. Diana Dilworth called it: “just not good enough.”

Dilworth noted the “just unbelievable” density, the “golden opportunity” for real estate speculators, as well as the project’s lack of jobs, commercial space and daycare.

“It sets a really bad precedent, not only for James Road but for a dead-end side street,” Dilworth said. “Why should we give this one developer a priority at the expense of every other value that we hold?”

While affordability is crucial, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the standards the city has demanded of other development applications, according to Dilworth.

The proposal won praise from students who noted the challenges they face finding affordable housing.

Representing the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, Stephanie Booth pointed to the area being largely unaffordable.

“Our businesses need to secure long-term employment for their employees but they also need long-term housing,” she told council.

The development could allow young people to put down roots, agreed Belcarra resident Joseph Webber.

“As a business owner, I really do see the struggle of the younger generation to buy affordable housing and how that affects them and their families,” he said.

There were also several speakers who opposed the development, contending that the units – some of which are about 412 square feet – are too small while the rest of the development is too dense for the neighbourhood.

‘Divisive and tone-deaf’

“It’s really, really off-putting to hear a generational divide emerge with some of the most divisive and tone-deaf comments I’ve heard sitting in this chair,” responded Mayor Rob Vagramov. “If your garage is 3,000 square feet, good for you, good job, great. It looks like you did great in the economy that you were born into.”

However, if you’re not supporting young families living in basements and spare rooms or working for millennials trying to find a place to live in a housing crisis, “I don’t know what to say to you,” Vagramov concluded.

Project changes

Council rejected a previous of the project included more total units (111) as well as 57 microsuites, which, on average, were approximately 351 square feet. The earlier version also included five two-bedroom units and no three-bedroom units.

The new version includes 19 two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units.

Is 900 metres too far to go?

“The project has come a long way,” acknowledged Coun. Hunter Madsen.

While he ultimately supported the project, Madsen said he would prefer a three-storey building slightly closer to a SkyTrain station.

“It’s just far enough [from SkyTrain] to reduce active transportation for some people,” he said.

Some tenants likely won’t take the 900-metre stroll to Moody Centre SkyTrain which will lead to a problem with street parking, agreed Coun. Meghan Lahti.

“That distance is going to make a difference in how people move around,” she said. “They are going to be more care dependent . . . when you have a reduction in the parking on-site, then that pushes cars out onto the streets.”

In addition to concerns around density, Lahti also questioned the size of the units.

“They’re not solutions for people that may be working from home,” she said. “I really wish I could say that I support this but I can’t.”

Coun. Steve Milani differed, suggesting the walk is: “Not a great distance to get to such excellent public transit.”

Milani also voiced his support for the applicant’s decision to boost the project’s affordability and to institute a locals first policy.

Coun. Amy Lubik also praised the project’s affordability. However, Lubik described herself as “torn” on the project, voicing concerns about speculation as well as a lack of two-bedroom units for a building set to be next to a school.

Coun. Zoe Royer backed the project, discussing parents throughout the community who have adult children looking for a place to live. And while the units may seem tiny to some, “for others, it’s a whole new beginning,” she said.

No golden opportunity for speculators

Discussing the project in December, applicant Sasha Rasovic of Dulex Laidler assured Royer the development would be for “occupiers, not investors.”

Breakdown

  • Floor area ratio: 3.13 (FAR measures a project’s total floor space against its lot size)
  • Studio units: 35
  • One-bedroom units: 29
  • Two-bedroom units: 19
  • Three-bedroom units: 5
  • The project includes 88 parking stalls – 80 assigned to residents and 8 to visitors.

The project requires one more formal vote before construction can begin.

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