Port Moody approves rezoning for St. George St. townhomes, but wont bend on building efficiency requirements

Concept drawings for the 11-unit townhouse development on the 2800 block of St. George Street. image supplied

Port Moody council appears to be sticking to their guns when it comes to energy efficiency in new developments.

The city requirement for all new construction to achieve Step Code 4 was tested by a developer seeking to lower costs during final reading on July 4.

“At some point, we’re going to just have to accept that there will be costs to doing this,” said Mayor Meghan Lahti. “We have to actually commit to it if we want to make net zero.”


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While rezoning for the 11-unit townhouse project on the 2800 block of St. George St. passed unanimously, council also passed an amendment making the zoning contingent on efficiency requirements.

The levels of the province’s energy step codes grade how energy efficient a building is, with Step 5 meaning ‘net zero,’ or producing as much energy as it consumes.

The city has set ambitious targets in its Climate Action Plan, aiming to reduce emissions by 40 percent compared to 2007 levels by 2030, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Port Moody wants all new builds to be constructed under Step 5 by 2032.

The developer, represented by Carolyn Thompson of CityState Consulting Group, was seeking a variance to allow Step 3.

Thompson said that the extra costs of building to Step 4 would ultimately pass on to the property buyers, approximately $30,000 to $40,000 per unit.

She pointed out that Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Pitt Meadows only require Step 3 for residential buildings.

Thompson said the building’s use of energy efficient heat pumps would be “a compromise to balance the playing field” on affordability.

Although much of the council expressed appreciation to the developer for making requested changes to unit width and parking space, asking for a variance on building efficiency was a step too far.

Coun. Diana Dilworth said she was uncomfortable with granting the request, noting that North Shore municipalities are already requiring Step 5 for all new residential builds.

“We are trying to be champions in terms of addressing climate action and addressing sustainability,” Dilworth said.

All of council agreed. 

Coun. Samantha Agtarap said she anticipates construction won’t be complete until 2025, and it’s important the city try to achieve its targets, noting that Step 4 is approximately 20 percent more efficient than Step 3.

Lahti said she appreciated the hardships related to extra costs, adding that developers may need to move away from traditional building designs.

A large focus of council’s last discussion around the project related to the unit sizes in one of the buildings and retention of one visitor parking space.

The developer’s revised designs were able to achieve both requests without impacting outdoor amenity space or garden plots, which was lauded by council.

Couns. Callan Morrison and Haven Lurbiecki – both of whom voted against moving the project forward during second reading – voted to approve the rezoning, despite some reservations.

Morrison said he still had concerns related to shrinking unit sizes for townhomes as a means to decrease purchase prices.

Council still has not received a report on minimum units sizes for different housing types, he said.

“Every time there’s a small concession made, that concession can be used as an example or set a precedent for another concession, for another concession, for another concession,” Morrison said.

Environmental and density concessions are being requested for the sake of affordability, Morrison noted.

He questioning whether one issue should be prioritized over the other.

“Can we do it all?” he said. “Because although I do want to hit those targets for 2032, I’m not super optimistic . . . especially with the expense of housing nowadays.”

Lurbiecki echoed Morrisons concerns reagrding a lack of policy on minimum unit sizes, stating that every time the city shrinks unit sizes, it drives up the cost of housing per square foot.

“Even though maybe these townhomes are more affordable because they’re smaller . . . These are not affordable units, these are not below-market rentals,” Lurbiecki said. “These are townhomes. They are a luxury product.”

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