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Scrap connector, says group

The Port Moody Waterfront Community Interest Group’s rendering of a future Murray Street with a tree-lined boulevard, on-street parking and divided traffic. Today, Murray Street (bottom left) is mostly industrial buildings but members of the group believe it could be a high-density waterfront neighbourhood with direct access to Rocky Point Park and the Evergreen Line.  - SUBMITTED PHOTO
The Port Moody Waterfront Community Interest Group’s rendering of a future Murray Street with a tree-lined boulevard, on-street parking and divided traffic. Today, Murray Street (bottom left) is mostly industrial buildings but members of the group believe it could be a high-density waterfront neighbourhood with direct access to Rocky Point Park and the Evergreen Line.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

With the future of the Evergreen Line once again at the forefront of the public’s attention in Port Moody, an organized group of Murray Street land owners is asking the city to can the Murray-Clarke Connector.

The group’s timing is prescient too as TransLink just completed its “business case” assessment of the Murray-Clarke Connector, an overpass connecting Murray and Clarke streets that TransLink had previously scrapped funding for, saying there was no such “business case” for the project.

Port Moody city council has now received TransLink’s business assessment for the connector and will vote on a course of action at Tuesday’s council meeting, according to Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini.

But the Port Moody Waterfront Community Interest Group wants Port Moody’s pro-connector council to consider what they say will be the overpass’ negative impact on the city’s waterfront.

Barry Sharbo has owned a piece of light-industrial zoned land on Murray Street since 1979 and he has launched a campaign to convince the city to scrap the connector, which he said would turn Murray Street into a “freeway” through Port Moody. He wants the city to rezone Murray Street from light-industrial- to mixed-use.

Calling Murray Street’s current zoning a relic of its industrial past, Sharbo and the waterfront interest group envision Murray Street as a future pedestrian-friendly, high-density waterfront neighbourhood with on-street parking, crosswalks and direct access to Rocky Point Park from the Evergreen Line.

They’ve hired architect Richard Balfour of Vancouver’s Balfour & Associates to draw up preliminary designs of how Murray Street might look if these amenities were realized. Trasolini told The Tri-City News that while he too was a proponent of rezoning Murray Street for mixed-use seven or eight years ago, council then as council now, had roundly rejected the idea.

“The [waterfront group] presented something through staff to council about wanting the city to unilaterally rezone the area and basically council wasn’t receptive to that,” Trasolini said. “But we did tell them that as individual owners they can apply to rezone or amend the OCP [official community plan].”

Trasolini went on to say that the waterfront group was conflating the two separate issues of the Murray-Clarke Connector and the rezoning of Murray Street, saying that there’s no reason they couldn’t have it both ways.

“[Suter Brook Village], a huge development, and what’s in front of it? Murray Street, four-lane Murray Street.

“Newport Village, with all the high-rises and everything, and what goes beside it? The same road,” Trasolini said.

Coun. Mike Clay told The Tri-City News on Wednesday that while he agrees with Sharbo and the waterfront group: the traffic problems in that area need to be addressed and the group does have other recourse to deal with their issues.

“Personally, I agree with them. Putting a four-lane highway down there is kind of a blight through their neighbourhood, but it’s also 25 years of the city trying to get this thing built.”

Clay said that the waterfront group had unfortunately come to the city too late into the OCP development process last year to make its proposed zoning amendments. The city now cannot amend its OCP plans until after decisions on the Murray-Clarke Connector and Evergreen Line projects are finalized with TransLink.

All indicators point to decisions on those two projects being made one way or another in the coming weeks. And, if TransLink’s Murray-Clarke funding isn’t there on Tuesday, Clay said all options for the area will be on the table and open to public input.

At that point, the waterfront group could apply to rezone their Murray Street lands as a group or individually as early as the fall, when the next meeting of the economic development committee is scheduled.

tcoyne@tricitynews.com

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