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Anmore South development proposal ekes forward so more discussions can happen

The project could see about 3,300 new homes built in the south part of Anmore.
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An artist's concept of what life could look like in Anmore South when the 150-acre property is developed.

A development proposal that could triple the village of Anmore's population has inched forward ever so slightly.

But it's still a long way from being realized.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Anmore council voted 4-1 to give first reading to amendments to the village's official community plan that would accommodate a plan by Port Moody-based developer Icona Properties to build 3,300 new homes, as well as commercial and mixed-use spaces, on 150 acres the company owns at 1st Avenue and Sunnyside Road.

But, Mayor John McEwen reminded his fellow councillors and interested community members crowded into the gymnasium at Anmore Elementary School, the result is far from an endorsement of the project.

Rather, it frees council to begin more detailed discussions with Icona about its plans and find out their implications for the village, at the developer’s expense.

"You want to work with people and see how it plays out," McEwen said.

In a presentation, Paul Fenske, the principal of Placemark Design and Development that’s working with Icona on its plans for the Anmore South neighbourhood, said gaining council’s initial assent to move forward "starts the conversation."

He said the village of 2,200 people on the northwest border of Port Moody is no longer a rural enclave isolated from the pressures and challenges facing other communities that comprise Metro Vancouver.

Fenske said Icona’s development proposal gives Anmore the opportunity to confront some of those challenges, like the cost and diversity of housing and need for amenities and services, on its own terms rather than waiting to have solutions imposed upon it.

Fenske said Icona’s plan, that includes a new 25,000 sq. ft. community centre, a 50,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, a 9.3-acre park and more than four kilometres of accessible greenways and trails, would create "a new community heart." He also said it would bring much-needed funds to the village that could be used to improve services like water and sewer.

But Coun. Doug Richardson cautioned such a Valhalla scenario could come at a price to Anmore's unique semi-rural character by introducing further pressures like transportation.

"Infrastructure requirements come first," he said. "Anmore needs a way to figure out is there a way to bring more transportation here."

Currently Anmore is accessed by two narrow, winding routes — Ioco Road and East Road. The possible construction of a third route by extending David Avenue through Bert Flinn Park was short-circuited three years ago when Port Moody council voted to remove an old gravel right of way that bisects the 311-acre green space.

As well, Richardson said, Icona’s plan to build mostly condos, townhouses and rental apartments in its development doesn’t address Anmore’s need for affordable family housing, given their high cost everywhere else in the region.

Coun. Paul Weverink said those would be important discussions council can have with the developer by moving its application through first reading. It will also allow council more leverage to create a proper plan for the neighbourhood that will set parameters for Icona to follow.

"The neighbourhood plan is where we get in the weeds," he said. "We need to look at something different. It’s an opportunity."

Coun. Polly Krier conceded there’s a high level of concern in the community about the project.

Indeed, during public input prior to the meeting, several Anmore residents and even one from Burnaby spoke out.

One said it was "out of sync" with the village’s natural environs and its housing needs. Others worried about the traffic problems it would create, especially along Ioco Road through Port Moody which that city has already said is overburdened.

Two years ago, several residents formed the Save Anmore Coalition and collected more than 900 signatures on a petition calling for the development of Anmore South be put to a referendum in the last municipal election. They said the project would be a "percussor to environmental degredations," create an "over-capacity on our transportation routes" and place "insurmountable pressures on regional parks and lakes."

But some residents lauded Icona’s plan.

They said the village is in desperate need of more housing options so young people can afford to stay where they grew up.

Coun. Kim Trowbridge agreed, believing Anmore can no longer isolate itself from the rest of Metro Vancouver.

"We can't abdicate our responsibility to be a part of a greater community," he said. "My mind is not made up, but I’d really like to know what things can be."

Chris Boit, Anmore’s manager of development services, said passage of first reading will allow council to convene a committee of the whole meeting where it can gather even more information and have detailed discussions with the proponent.

McEwen said it’s only appropriate the village take that opportunity to explore a new future at its new hub that is scheduled to open in early January.