Taxes, transit, townhouses and . . . Buckeyes?

Good morning, gang. Is anybody else finding it tough to work from home these days? If you see a typo in today’s newsletter please report it to me so I can blame my bird.

We’re up over 4,000 readers now, so a big thank you for everyone passing along the newsletter. Because of how quickly we’re growing we’ve moved up our timeline for publishing long-form stories. Stay tuned.

Today we’ve got property taxes and townhouses (both on the rise) and a Port Moody kid who’s just one game away from playing for a championship. Let’s get to it.

Taxes
Port Moody votes for 3.55% tax hike

Cut taxes or slash services?

That was the question before Port Moody council Tuesday with Mayor Rob Vagramov calling the tax rate “uncomfortably high.”

Costs: The owner of an average property will pay about $3,830 this year.

  • “This is too similar to a normal budget,” Vagramov said. The mayor unsuccessfully moved to delay Tuesday’s vote in hopes of finding new ways to cut taxes.

The situation: Any further reduction would be a “significant cut,” to services, according to city manager Tim Savoie, who suggested further reductions would be less akin to “trimming around the edges” and more like “lopping off any arm or leg.”

Besides boosting city revenue through digital billboards, staff have already saved taxpayers $416,810, according to staff. That figure includes a $20,000 reduction to the library budget.

The city’s shrinking population has resulted in greater reliance on taxation, said Coun. Meghan Lahti.

  • “We are living beyond our means,” Lahti said.

If the city won’t allow development, council may have to examine permanent service reductions, Lahti warned.

Mill closure: The 3.55 per cent increase, particularly in light of the Flavelle mill closure, is a reasonable number, according to Coun. Steve Milani. (The mill closed in October 2020 with management blaming, in part, high municipal taxes. City staff calculated the closure meant a tax revenue loss of $1.25 million, the equivalent of a 2.8 per cent property tax increase.)

They liked the steak but loathed the sizzle.

What happened: Coquitlam council overwhelmingly supported a 24-unit townhouse development on Baycrest Avenue Monday – despite several councillors expressing qualms over the way the project was sold.

After outlining the project, Woodbridge Homes president James Howard discussed the company’s charitable work, which aimed to support: “municipalities that had recently supported our business, one of which was Coquitlam.”

  • Donations could go to first responders, food banks and elementary school programs, Howard explained.

Giving back: Our idea is that, as we advance new projects in any municipality to fourth reading, should we be so fortunate, that we’ll be contributing an additional $1,000 per unit,” he said. “The idea is to create a perpetual annuity of giving back into the communities that are supporting our business.”

Tethering the charitable contribution to council’s approval of a pending development ties the donation to the vote, responded Coun. Trish Mandewo.

  • “To me it almost seemed like they were saying, if you vote for it then we’re going to give this money,” she said.

Opposition: Mandewo was the only councillor to oppose the project. However, several others expressed misgivings following Howard’s presentation. 

Please don’t ever talk about it that way,” requested Coun. Chris Wilson.

While the language may be “disconcerting,” the practice of developers making charitable contributions is not unusual, said Mayor Richard Stewart.

“In fact the Evergreen Cultural Centre was built that way,” Stewart told his colleagues.

Breakdown:

  • Address: 3489 Baycrest Avenue (between Victoria Drive and Burke Village Promenade)
  • Three storeys
  • Four buildings
  • Three-bedroom units: 5
  • Four-bedroom units: 14
  • Five-bedroom units: 5
  • Money for the city: approximately $733,300 in development cost charges and voluntary community amenity contributions
  • Currently occupied by a single-family house.

What happened: A $300-million SkyTrain operations and maintenance centre is coming to Coquitlam.

Where is it: The 27-acre site is located at 225 North Rd in an industrial area just off the highway and north of the Amazon centre and Hume Park.

The cost: According to Daily Hive Urbanized, the site was bought for $82.5 million in March 2020. (Kudos to Kenneth Chan for some fine reporting.)

  • The project follows recent news of new cars and longer trains adding extra capacity to SkyTrain.

West Coast Express

The engines of six West Coast Express locomotives are getting a $20.9-million overhaul that could keep them running an extra 15 years, according to a provincial announcement Wednesday.

  • The heat and lighting units are also slated to be swapped out for more energy-efficient, low-emission power units designed to work with longer trains.
  • Taste of the Tri-Cities: From now until March 19th restaurants across the Tri-Cities area are being showcased for a local food festival
  • Whodunit: Armchair sleuths are invited to solve a murder during their virtual trip to a 1980s-era prom. Leg warmers optional
  • The Skate Show: Extra skate times have been added at Port Coquitlam Community Centre
  • Speaking in code: Port Moody coding camps kick off March 22

Had it with the Canucks? Not planning to watch Grey’s Anatomy? (Is Meredith Grey ever getting out of that coma? And don’t even start me on Deluca last week. What was that?)

Ahem. The point is that there’s something else to watch: the big game.

After scoring a pivotal goal Tuesday night, Port Moody’s Jenna Buglioni is leading our beloved Ohio State Buckeyes into the NCAA Frozen Four where they’ll square off against the reviled Wisconsin Badgers.

A win would send Ohio State to the finals for the first time in the school’s history.

Puck drops at 4 p.m.

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