Beyond the drama: A look at the voting records of Port Moody mayoral candidates Steve Milani and Meghan Lahti

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As Port Moody voters prepare to head to the polls Oct. 15, we thought it might be instructive to highlight the differences between the two mayoral candidates, Couns. Steve Milani and Meghan Lahti.

For this article, we’ve selected a few critical votes from the last term in which Milani and Lahti landed on opposing sides.

While by no means exhaustive, we hope this list helps voters get a better sense of what each candidate stands for and what they stand against.

Editor’s note: this story has been amended since first posting to provide additional context.

February 2019: Townhouses and heritage

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The project: A six-building, 45-unit townhouse development at 2801-2831 St George St.

The project also included the restoration and preservation of Johnston Residence at 2801 St. George St. Built in 1911, the Johnston residence would have been designated a protected heritage property.

What they said

Despite voicing concerns about density, Lahti said the project should go to public hearing so council can get input from residents.

After praising the look of the project, Milani said he had a “huge issue” with the density and lack of green space on the site.

How they voted

Lahti supported the project. Milani voted with the majority against the development.

Additional context

A slightly smaller version of the project was unanimously approved in June 2019. The Tri-City News published this article on the project shortly before approval.

September 2019: Economics and money

The issue: Council considered spending a maximum of $6,690 to have as many as six councillors attend the 2019 Western Economic Development Course.

What they said

The four-day conference, which included educational sessions on strategic planning and small business development, provided “an excellent opportunity to acquire fresh tools and ideas that can be implemented in Port Moody,” according to a report written by Lahti.

Milani said he would support sending one councillor who would report back to council. “We can save money that we don’t really have,” he explained.

How they voted

Milani cast the lone vote against the proposal. Lahti was not present for the vote.

December 2019: Money off the mortgage

The project: The ultimately defeated proposal would have put two six-storey buildings on seven properties between St. George and St. John streets.

The project’s 163 units were intended to be offered as relatively affordable housing for middle-income households who don’t own a home and have incomes ranging from $112,000 to $155,000.

The affordability was set to be achieved by the developer making a reduced profit, B.C. Housing providing low-cost interim construction financing and Port Moody deferring fees and charges and contributing land. All told, those contributions were slated to reduce the amount of a first mortgage by 10 to 20 percent.

The project represented a “positive addition to the community,” according to city staff, who stated that the program will allow more buyers to enter the ownership market and potentially free up rental units.

What they said

Lahti, who said council needed to “walk the talk,” on affordable housing, encouraged her colleagues to view the project from the perspective of the city’s spectrum of housing needs.

“If you’re saying that you value affordable housing than you have to be able to look at something like this with an open mind,” Lahti said.

“We shouldn’t give away the farm,” Milani said, suggesting the developer’s reduced profit was still fairly substantial.

“I really don’t see why a tiny city like ours with a small budget should have to swallow almost $4 million when there is most likely a $12-million profit on a project like this,” he said.

How they voted

Milani opposed the project. Lahti supported it.

Additional context

A revised version of the project was unanimously supported in June. Read more here.

January 2021: Cannabis in the air

The issue: Allowing a cannabis shop at 3034 St. Johns Street.

How they voted

Lahti supported. Milani opposed.

July 2021: Woodland Park

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The project: A five neighbourhood project consisting of 2,053 units and 19,000 square feet of commercial space spread over 23 acres.

The scale of the development is “mind blowing,” Milani said, noting that, once built, the development will boost Port Moody’s population by a greater figure than Newport Village and Suter Brook combined.

The vote

Milani cast the only vote against the project. Lahti recused herself due to a possible impact on her property.

September 2021: Murray Street

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The project: Three six-storey residential, commercial and light-industrial buildings totalling 215 units on the 3000-block of Murray Street.

What they said

Milani described the project as being “not quite there,” criticizing the development for a lack of three-bedroom units.

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],” she said.

How they voted

Lahti supported the development. Milani opposed it.

February 2022: St. Johns gateway project

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The project: a two-building, six-storey, 222-unit project for 2025 St. Johns Street

What they said

Discussing traffic woes, Milani warned of ushering in the age of “Port Gridlock.”

“I look at the project and I have to make sure that it’s going to improve the quality of life for Port Moody residents,” Milani said. “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.”

Addressing traffic, Lahti said the project would have minimal impact on long-term changes to traffic volume.

“When we don’t welcome new residents to Port Moody, we basically are pushing them farther east.”

The applicant responded to council’s concerns, Lahti added.

“As a council, we gave direction to come back with 10 percent rental. They came back with what we asked for,” Lahti said.

How they voted

Milani voted against the project. Lahti voted in favour.

April 2022: Coronation Park

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The issue: Amending the city’s official community plan to clear the way for a possible 2,665-unit development at Coronation Park.

What they said

“We’ve been obstructionist and pushed away opportunities for too long,” Lahti said. “Once this neighbourhood is completed, it will house a new generation of Port Moody residents.”

The project is a “massive ask” over the city’s official community plan, Milani said.

“This is simply not the type of density the public agreed to when the Coronation Park OCP amendment went through in 2017,” he said.

Ultimately, Milani suggested the project didn’t do enough to boost the quality of life for Port Moody residents or do anything to enhance the beauty or charm of the city.

How they voted

Milani opposed the project. Lahti supported it.

July 2022: The Westport extension

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The issue: Nearly three years after approving the 10-building mixed-use proposal, the applicant returned to council to ask for a one-year extension.

What they said

It’s respectful to support the extension, Lahti said, adding that the debate shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to reverse a previous decision.

“It’s three years and we haven’t even got a shovel in the ground,” Milani said.

How they voted

Lahti supported the extension. Milani opposed the extension before eventually reversing that vote in a subsequent meeting.

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