Port Moody council throws support behind preserving Belcarra cottages

While the people who call a group of cottages in Belcarra Regional Park home still don’t know if they’ll get to stay, the City of Port Moody isn’t getting behind the vision proposed for the area by the tenant’s landlord, Metro Vancouver.

On Tuesday, city council voted in favour of adding the Belcarra South cottages to the city’s heritage register.

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The motion also includes sending a letter to Metro Vancouver for information on the process for purchasing the cabins, a statement that the City of Port Moody is not supportive of the expansion of the regional park due to the potential traffic increase along Ioco Road, and a request the regional district revisit motions as they relate to the development of the park.

The issue around the cottages dates back years. In 2013, Metro Vancouver served the residents, also known as the Belcarra South Preservation Society, with an eviction notice which would have seen them out by the end of August last year.

The notice was eventually extended to the end of June this year.

Metro Vancouver gave the cottagers several reasons for the eviction notice, including an interest in expanding the park and improving access to a beach nearby.

The regional district had also expressed liability concerns regarding the water supply and the state of the cottages.

Mayor Mike Clay didn’t mince words in describing how Metro Vancouver has handled the issue, calling the regional district an “incompetent landlord.”   

He said the argument by the regional district that the cottagers pay below market value for rent and the buildings are in disrepair could have been addressed without tearing down the cottages.

However, Clay said he’s not just supporting saving the cottages for the people who live there, he’s also looking to preserve their heritage.

“I want to preserve the cabins because I want to preserve an indicator or a memory of a way of life that existed back then,” Clay said, adding the cottages could be used as a type of museum or artist’s studio. “They [the cottages] have a role in our history, and you don’t just let those things go away.”

There are seven cottages located in the regional park, six of which have Port Moody addresses.

A statement of significance put forward by the society suggested the property has historical and cultural values, particularly for its connection to the Bole family.

Judge Bole is noted for having named the community "Belcarra."

Though Clay said he doesn’t want to get involved in what he sees as a tenancy agreement, he believes the people living in the cottages could keep the history alive. 

As for park expansion plans, the mayor said the city has no interest in seeing additional traffic on Ioco, suggesting the park is more of a passive place than others in the region.

Jo Ledingham, a member of the society who has called one of the park cottages home for decades, said she’s pleased by the support of both Port Moody and the Village of Belcarra, but doesn’t want to get too optimistic she and her neighbours will get to stay.

The cottages being added to the heritage registry just means the district would have to give 60 days notice to tear them down.

Ledingham hopes Metro Vancouver will back down from their plans in the face of opposition by the two municipalities.

“What we want is Metro Vancouver regional parks to understand that houses can exist in parks and that they actually add value,” she told the Tri-Cities NOW.

In the meantime, Ledingham said the society continues to work on proposals to address both the liability and public access issues, along with public programming.

“We feel we’ve bent over so far backwards, we’re just about on our butts,” she said.

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