Port Moody goes ahead with St. Johns gateway project

Out of 15 speakers at Tuesday’s public hearing, 14 supported the project

Despite some concerns about oncoming gridlock, Port Moody council approved a two-building, six-storey, 222-unit project for 2025 St. Johns Street in a 4-3 vote Tuesday night.

The project will likely exacerbate traffic problems, according to Coun. Hunter Madsen, who noted the project is about a 1.7-kilometre hike from Moody Centre SkyTrain.

“That means most of Marcon’s nearly 500 new residents will probably be car- and commute-dependent,” he said, explaining his decision to vote against the project. “I might even have looked the other way if this project was providing enough value to justify the traffic mayhem it’s going to be adding to.”

Addressing those traffic concerns, Coun. Zoe Royer took a regional view.

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“Where we delay or deny these projects we actually push density into Langley, Mission, Abbotsoford, and Hope,” she said. “We push people into auto-dependency and taking longer and longer commutes.”

Cumulatively, those longer commutes threaten to exacerbate the climate crisis, according to Royer.

Coun. Meghan Lahti concurred.

“Whether or not we build on the corner of Barnet and St. Johns . . . it’s not going to really affect that long-term outcome,” she said.

Coun. Steve Milani warned of the “cumulative effects” of development turning the city into “Port Gridlock.”

“Other than the 10 percent affordable units – which doesn’t meet our 15 percent minimum policy, by the way – I can’t really see how it improves life for our residents,” Milani said.

The traffic report

A worst-case traffic scenario projected this development would add 102 two-way vehicles per hour during morning rush hour and 128 two-way vehicles in the afternoon, according to a traffic report from Bunt and Associates. That scenario was based on a previous incarnation of the project that included 242 units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space.

All told, the project would make up about 4 percent or less of future total traffic in the area, according to the report.

The report also noted that traffic in the area is expected to increase, in part due to Port Moody Secondary adding approximately 300 students.

Long lines getting longer

That traffic is a reason to reject the project, according to resident Andre Besson.

“I’ve seen the snake hill getting more and more congested every single year. It simply is a parking lot during rush hour in a time where most people are working from home due to the pandemic,” Besson wrote to council. “With the project calling for [345] parking stalls, where are all those cars going to go at a place that is already a traffic gridlock?”

Pretty vacant space

Many residents backed the project, touting the development as a means to revitalize the area.

“This property has been an eyesore at the western gateway of Port Moody and an attractant for illegal dumping for many years and it is time to make better use of this site,” wrote Mike Homenuke in a letter to council. “This area is demonstrably a ‘food desert’ and any retail focus on day-to-day needs for local residents will have a positive impact on minimizing car trips from the project and surrounding neighbourhood.”

Out of 15 speakers at Tuesday’s public hearing, 14 supported moving the project forward, with many citing Port Moody’s lack of population growth, the need to upgrade the derelict space that serves as Port Moody’s gateway and the project’s affordable housing component.

The 222-unit proposal includes 23 units secured as below-market rentals for either sixty years or the life of the building.

Breakdown

  • One-bedroom units: 122
  • Two-bedroom units: 91
  • Three-bedroom units: 9
  • Commercial space: 15,220 square feet
  • Parking spots: 345

Getting past first reading

The applicant got first reading earlier this year with instructions to double the job generating space, increase the project’s overall affordability, and to not encroach on the riparian area.

“Council has been very hard on this applicant,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth. “Everything that council has asked of this applicant has been achieved plus more.”

Explaining her support for the project, Coun. Amy Lubik cited the addition of affordable housing as well as design features including family units with balcony space

“I think that that is a lot to measure other projects by.”

Council approved the project with Mayor Rob Vagramov, Madsen and Milani opposed.

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

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