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‘Big issues at play,’ Anmore mayor says, as residents chafe at proposed density near Metro Vancouver parks

Village considers urban designation for 150-acre parcel called Anmore South: but some residents say they are worried about development and call for a referendum; Port Moody hasn't been consulted about the plan

A quiet, semi-rural village that has become a recreation playground for pandemic-bound Metro Vancouver residents is considering whether it should become more urban.

Anmore, a community of 2,500 people living on land mostly zoned for one-acre lots, is considering whether a 150-acre parcel of former Ioco lands should be re-designated from Special Study Area to urban.

Such a decision would be controversial in a village where most residents are on septic systems and water comes from Port Moody. It could also revive a proposal shelved by Gilic Developments for 1,200 homes and shops.

However, village mayor John McEwen said applying to Metro Vancouver to be included in the urban containment boundary doesn’t automatically densify the former gun range; more zoning and public consultation would be required.

Still, he said some residents would welcome shopping amenities, if located in Anmore South, so they wouldn’t have to drive as far while more diverse housing could allow families to move into the pricy area.

The new designation would also bring sewer to the area and expand the tax base, enabling the village to have more “control over its destiny.”

ANMORE ‘AT A CROSSROADS’ AS IT PONDERS URBAN DESIGNATION FOR ANMORE SOUTH

“I think Anmore is certainly at a crossroads, I believe we can have the best of both worlds [but] we need to have diversity. We need to have families,” John McEwen told the Tri-City News.

Incorporated in 1987, Anmore is a green oasis — just a short drive away from SkyTrain, shopping malls and towers in Port Moody, Coquitlam and Burnaby — yet it’s also near Belcarra Regional Park, Sasamat Lake and Buntzen Lake, where thousands jam parking lots and beaches during summer.

While Anmore is but a thoroughfare to a family picnic for most Lower Mainland residents, its residents are community minded and many fear re-designating the so-called Anmore South parcel would be a Trojan Horse, bringing development, traffic and environmental degradation to the forested community.

Recently, a large group of residents gathered to protest the Anmore South process; a number of them have also been expressing their worries on Facebook and in online polls and surveys.

“We have environmental concerns,” said Meralee Guidi, who lives in Anmore, “and if you would go to the site you would see the trees, and [with density] they would all be cut down.”

Residents’ biggest worry is “never-ending” traffic if denser development brings more people to the area. With only two major arterial roads in and out of the village, both of them narrow in some locations and busy in summer, traffic can be heavy and challenging to live with, Guidi said, adding more development will only make it worse.

“We can barely handle the traffic we have now,” she said.

While village officials promise traffic studies and a financial analysis of three development scenarios at different densities, some residents are skeptical of the process, believing it’s being rushed through the pandemic despite opposition.

They want it shelved or at least handed to voters for a final say.

Guidi is calling for a the matter to be put to a referendum during the 2022 civic election because it would provide more time for people to get informed and give them a chance to state once-and-for all whether they want to see more density on the 150-acre plot.

RESIDENTS WANT A REFERENDUM ON ANMORE SOUTH URBAN DESIGNATION

“Everybody is just asking for a referendum. We just want a voice. That’s all we’re asking for. We just want a vote and we’ll accept at the end what comes out of it.”

McEwen said he’s not opposed to a referendum, stating, “We're going into this with a completely open mind but what came up is people want more information, and that’s what we're trying to provide. We’re in no rush to do this, by the way.”

While bringing sewer to Anmore is one important focus of the new urban designation, the spectre of Gilic Developments remounting a proposal to develop its property is also on the horizon.

Keeping Anmore South at one acre would make the houses out-of-range for all but the most wealthy, warned McEwen. “That’s what we’re asking the community: Do you want something different here?”

Meanwhile, Port Moody will likely take an interest in the process as that city has already taken steps to prevent denser development on its portion of the Ioco lands. The city also removed a third-road option for Anmore when it converted to park an old right-of-way for extending David Avenue through Bert Flinn Park.

McEwen said the village hasn’t consulted with Port Moody yet.  “What we are focusing on now is what we need as a community moving forward.”

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