The proponent behind an ambitious redevelopment plan for the old Andrés Wine site will be able to continue working on the project that could transform Port Moody’s west side.
John Peller, the chair and CEO of Andrew Peller Ltd., said his company is "absolutely" resolved "to get this project done" after a majority of Port Moody councillors voted last night (July 26) to grant a year’s extension.
This is set to allow the completion of work required to receive fourth and final reading of amendments to the city’s official community plan and zoning bylaws required for construction to proceed.
It's now been three years since Peller's proposal received unanimous support from city council to redevelop the five-acre property that is now known as Westport Village, where it had operated a winery from 1961 until 2005.
He said the project’s complexity, as well as delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitated more time beyond the city’s mandated limit for moving applications to the next step.
"That is the challenge for dreaming as big as we have," Peller said of the plan, which includes:
- 418 units of strata, rental and seniors housing
- artists' live/work studios and galleries
- a performance venue
- light industrial spaces
- medical centre
- grocery store
- boutique hotel
Peller, who travelled from his company’s headquarters in Burlington, Ont., to attend Tuesday’s meeting, said architects, engineers and city staff have been hard at work to bring together all the components that are the fruits of 17 years of public consultation and planning.
"At no time have we not been working hard to advance our interests. There is a lot of support for the project."
But two weeks ago, that support seemed to falter after a motion to extend the deadline for fourth reading narrowly failed in a tie vote.
Councillors Diana Dilworth, Meghan Lahti and Zoe Royer assented to the request, while Hunter Madsen and Steve Milani, as well as Mayor Rob Vagramov, turned it down; Coun. Amy Lubik was absent.
On July 19, a motion to reconsider the previous week’s decision also failed, but a subsequent motion by Vagramov to solicit legal guidance on the procedural matter was approved, setting up Tuesday’s change of heart by all councillors except for the mayor.
Madsen, who supported the project in 2019, said the time lag since the project received third reading made him leery of the company’s intentions.
"My worry is the proponent might be trying to buy more time to resell this project to another developer. I’m just afraid we’d end up getting snookered."
On Tuesday, Madsen said, while he still has concerns, there's "no problem" in supporting the proposal for another 12 months, believing it's time to "get the work done."
Royer said council’s vacillating "was rather humiliating" for a company that had employed so many people in the community for more than 50 years.
"It's really important we respect anyone that has brought this much community good will."
Royer claims the project's long list of amenities are badly needed, especially in Port Moody’s west side that is poised for a boom with several new developments nearby already underway or approved, including a massive redevelopment of the 23.4-acre Woodland Park neighbourhood that is expected to add up to 4,000 new residents to the area.
It's the advancement of those projects in the past three years that has changed the landscape for the Westport Village development, said Vagramov, adding he fears a traffic congestion nightmare when they’re all completed.
"I could see the merits of the project three years ago, but since then there has been a lot of density approved."
Vagramov has been pitching a third SkyTrain station between the Barnet Highway and the existing Moody Centre station as the obvious solution.
But, last April, council voted against spending up to $150,000 for a feasibility study and engineering assessment of an additional station after a consultant's report estimated it could cost $100 million to build.
Last week, Vagramov pulled a proposed motion to take another, less costly, look at a new station from council's agenda, suggesting more information would be forthcoming.
Peller said with so many amenities planned for the Westport Village project, residents would have pretty much everything they need right at their doorsteps.
And with up to 600 jobs to be created, many will be able to work there as well without commuting.
In fact, he added, the company’s goal is to attain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the entire neighbourhood, not just a building or two.
"There's nothing more powerful than a big idea whose time has come," he said.
"This is one of those big ideas."