Port Moody approves three-building Murray Street development in split vote

Despite concerns about too many people and too few jobs, the Port Moody project is moving ahead

A trio of six-storey residential, commercial and light-industrial buildings are set to be built on the 3000-block of Murray Street following a 4-3 vote Tuesday evening.

Two sides of the fence

Council was generally divided between enthusiastic support and teetering ambivalence for the 215-unit development.

Coun. Diana Dilworth praised the project as: “one of the final pieces to re-animate Murray Street.”

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“Every decision that council has made has really improved the quality of life down on Murray Street,” Dilworth said.

Both Couns. Hunter Madsen and Steve Milani described the project as being “not quite there.”

The project is anticipated to create 179 jobs. However, given the influx of 473 new residents, that’s not enough, Madsen contended.

Madsen also called for more affordability, suggesting the inclusion of 16 below-market units was “measly.”

“These units are still likely to feel small and cramped and dark,” he added.

Milani also criticized the project for not providing any three-bedroom units. While it is “unfortunate,” the city should have asked for family units earlier in the process, Coun. Meghan Lahti responded.

“We need to get our ducks in a row and stop trying to change horses in midstream,” Lahti said.

It’s unfair to ask a single developer to “bear the burden” of previous mistakes, Lahti said, addressing general criticism of the proposal.

“I can’t get away from the fact that this does meet our [official community plan].”

While Coun. Amy Lubik took issue with the project’s shortage of below-market units, she eventually supported the development, in part because it complies with the city’s OCP.

Mayor Rob Vagramov ultimately voted against the project, suggesting the residential density was out of step with the area’s burgeoning entertainment district.

One caveat

Currently, 40 percent of the units in the project are adaptable – falling short of the city’s usual requirement of 50 percent.

“There’s no reason for that,” Milani objected.

Initially, Milani put forward a motion that would have postponed project approval until staff talked with the developer about upping the adaptability and paying the city approximately $1.24 million for failing to provide enough parking.

The development includes 352 stalls. The city could have required a maximum of 414 parking spots, according to a staff report.

The motion failed with Milani, Coun. Hunter Madsen and Mayor Rob Vagramov in support.

Second effort

Milani’s subsequent motion instructing city staff to ask the applicant to include 50 percent adaptable units passed unanimously.

View from the public

While council was divided, the public was largely united in support of the project.

Both neighbours and neighbouring businesses praised the inclusion of job space, improved walkability as well as the good sense of putting density near transit.

The project is a way to fill in what is “a bit of an urban desert,” said Kyle Wright.

However, that support was not unanimous. Failing to provide a single three-bedroom unit is questionable, according to Yolanda Broderick.

“Are we not raising a community here?” she asked.

The application piqued the interest of Trading Post Brewing Co. representative John Reese, who suggested that, after five years of looking, the project may afford a good place to operate a brewery in Port Moody.

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