Port Moody residents pack town hall meeting on monster homes
As petite bungalows come down along Port Moody's Ioco Road corridor and much larger homes go up, Pleasantside residents are finding that one of the most feared sightings in their neighbourhood isn't the local wildlife, it's a "For Sale" sign.
People who have treasured their views of Burrard Inlet for decades are now looking at tall, expansive walls. Sunny gardens home to flowers and vegetable patches are now shrouded in shade.
One after the other, Pleasantside residents and, to a lesser extent, those from Glenayre as well, spoke at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening at PoMo city hall, pleading with council and staff to change the building bylaws — as quickly as possible — to prevent any more "monster" homes from going up.
"It's a very emotional issue," said Tara McIntosh, a Jacobs Road resident who helped initiate the "Good Neighbour Bylaw" group.
Fighting back tears, she described the tremendous stress families are going through as they watch homes built in front of theirs, most often without any consultation with or regard for the neighbours around them.
"Even if what you have is just a little house with a nice garden, to me it's a big 'screw you' when people come and build a big, fat house with a big wall in front of your main window."
Ann Kitching, a longtime April Road resident, said her neighbours are now looking at an enormous, three-storey box.
"They lost their beautiful view of the water, they lost the trees — everything is gone. It's a crying shame," Kitching said.
The trouble is, it's all completely legal, according to staff.
Jim Weber, PoMo's manager of bylaws, outlined the regulations that dictate how large a house can be in relation to its lot size, how height is measured depending on the roof style and — what appears to be the main issue — how the grade of the lot is measured.
"It's one of the more difficult things for us to calculate," Weber said. "The previous bylaw had some challenges in that people were tending to manipulate the grade a bit" to get the desired height of their homes.
Now, grade is calculated by taking an average of readings taken from where the house will be situated on the lot, with the ground being what it had been over the past two years.
But there is still room for interpretation, said Mayor Mike Clay.
"It's not breaking the law but it's being very creative in how they take advantage of the weaknesses in the bylaws," Clay said.
With Pleasantside's sloped lots, the resulting homes can end up looking extremely high, he added, while still conforming to the city's bylaws.
That could soon change.
Tuesday's meeting brought forward a number of suggestions for limiting the scale of new homes in well-established neighbourhoods, Clay said, including a cap on the height variance compared to neighbouring homes, tighter rules on the location and size of retaining walls, and including unfinished basements in total square footage.
Clay also suggested requiring builders go before a review panel to confirm whether nearby residents will be affected by a new house — a "forced good neighbour" policy, he joked.
McIntosh said the town hall meeting was an important opportunity "to put a human face on what these monster homes are doing to people" and that, far from being against redevelopment, residents just want to see more thoughtfulness in the way it's handled.
Clay said the issue will be raised at next week's council meeting, the last before the summer break, with the aim of directing staff to bring back suggested bylaw amendments in September.
"We're not stalling," Clay said. "We're going to keep moving ahead aggressively."