This article has been amended since first posting to correct the spelling of Land Use Committee member Jonathan Leighs.
Port Moody’s land use committee (LUC) has tentatively thrown their support behind a 15-storey seniors housing facility adjacent to Kyle Centre.
While numerous concerns were expressed over the project’s height and density, the committee voted 5-2 to deem the project appropriate. The final decision on the project rests with Port Moody city council.
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“It’s a great project, in a lot of regards, but it obviously has some really clear challenges,” said Jonathan Leighs of the LUC. “It is something that I don’t think we can turn our nose up at when it’s being offered to the community.”
The applicant, Avenir Senior Living, has dubbed the project the Kyle Senior Living Centre. It would be located on the just east of the Kyle Park and Kyle Centre, combining five parcels, totalling over 41,000 sq. ft. on the south side of St. George Street.
Staff said the development would require a significant official community plan amendment and rezoning, as the building would be a “significant departure” for the low-density residential neighborhood.
In fact, the floor area ratio is far greater than any existing or proposed development in Port Moody, according to the staff report.
Currently, the zoning only permits three-storey buildings, and only one three-storey multi-family building is located to the south of the site.
The developer has pitched a five-to-six storey podium building, with a tower on the western portion of the building up to 15 storeys.
A total of 194 residential units are proposed: 46 privately owned strata units on the upper floors of the tower, 100 independent/assisted living rental units, and 48 community care and memory units.
Approximately 88 full-time and part-time staff would be employed at the facility, according to the applicant.
Indoor and outdoor amenity space on the fifth floor would be provided, along with a total of 127 parking spaces.
Staff acknowledged the city’s OCP highlights the need for more seniors housing. However, they said the project appears to cater to moderate to higher-income levels, while the city’s housing needs report and seniors action plan stressed the need for lower-income units.
In the application, the developer said they should not be required to offer additional affordable units because they are offering the community care units and that adding below-market units would be financially unfeasible.
The proposal does meets some of the city’s criteria for high density developments, such as proximity to park space, civic facilities, bus services, and commercial services and amenities on St. John’s Street, according to staff.
They added that the city does have plans to redevelop Kyle Centre in the medium term, which could involve changing land uses around the building.
Kyle Park has also been identified for expansion in the OCP and parks master plan, and staff said that park dedications could be requested from the developer.
Regardless, staff said the building far exceeds the height and massing envisioned for the area, and impacts to the neighbourhood would have to be carefully considered.
For instance, the proposal’s vehicle access could conflict with the city’s plan to turn St. George Street into a neighbourhood bikeway.
Staff said there may be an option to close a portion of Hope Street and incorporate it into the development site, which would reduce the tower’s height and allow for additional park space.
Committee members were split over recommending the application to council. At first they considered the proposal inappropriate for the area but reversed course following discussion.
The need for more seniors housing eventually outweighed the concerns of height, density, parking access and accessibility, and distance to amenities and transit.
The two LUC members staunchly against moving the project were Jeff McLellan and Alistair Henry, stating it was a: “hard no.”
McLellan said the height was out of context for the area, and even future plans for the neighbourhood.
He described the development as a “luxury care facility,” adding he would consider supporting the additional height if affordable units were being offered.
“I envision Kyle Center at some point being brought back to life as a possible development partnership with the city, providing housing and more community space,” McLellan said. “This project is giving absolutely nothing to the community at all. It’s just taking advantage of being right next to a park.”
Henry said the project would set a bad precedent, as the site is too far from transit to justify increasing the building height by five times the surrounding neighbourhood.
“Every future proposal will reference this one. And I just don’t think this is the right place,” he said.
Leighs disagreed the proposal was precedent setting, noting to the unique housing type being offered.
Its current non-compliance with zoning may be a reflection of outdated zoning policy, according to Leighs, adding the nearby Legion seniors building is eight storeys, and fits into the neighbourhood without issue.
“In a city the size of Port Moody, it’s going to be really tough to find the Goldilocks zone for some of these projects, where it’s going to fit with the form and character with the size, with the density, with the proximity to amenities to transit,” Leighs said.
Bill Parneta also disagreed that the project was targeting wealthy buyers, stating the community’s need for this type of housing was wide ranging.
He said the building and road access were well designed, and said the building has a small footprint.
“I would like to see this kind of thing encouraged more, so we get some stuff actually built in this town, so we aren’t always blocking things and saying no to everything,” Parneta said. “It’s not a lot of people.”
Parking was a big issue for Sarah Wellman, pointing out that only 50 spaces were allocated for 100 rental units, only 17 were offered staff members, and only five were accessible spaces.
“You’re assuming only half of the people have cars, and yet there’s no easy access to transit,” Wellman said. “So they are basically trapped there.”