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Coquitlam rejects growth plan

Coquitlam is headed to dispute resolution after it rejected Metro Vancouver's plan for how the region should grow over the next 30 years.

Coquitlam is headed to dispute resolution after it rejected Metro Vancouver's plan for how the region should grow over the next 30 years.

On Monday, city council unanimously voted against the draft regional growth strategy (RGS), saying it's too vague, too inconsistent and exerts too much control over municipalities.

The refusal by Coquitlam effectively stops the RGS until a settlement is reached. And in the next few weeks, the provincial Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development will decide whether the process will be mediated or arbitrated.

Last week, Port Moody city council also rejected the RGS but said it would agree to it on conditions its long-term transportation goals are met - namely, the Murray-Clarke Connector and Evergreen Line - and its population projections are changed.

Metro's board will meet April 8 to review the RGS, which, as of yesterday (Tuesday) had been accepted by all Metro municipalities (except Coquitlam and PoMo) as well as the Fraser Valley Regional District, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and TransLink. Maple Ridge council was set to accept the plan last night - just hours before the RGS deadline.

Once the RGS is adopted, Metro municipalities have two years to pass regional context statements, showing how their official community plans match up with the RGS.

Under Part 25 of the Local Government Act, Metro is required to develop an RGS to replace the outdated Liveable Region Strategic Plan and demonstrate how the region could handle another 1.2 million people by 2040. The document contains, among other things, targets for housing, transportation, regional district services, parks and natural areas and economic development.

But Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said what started five years ago as a regional plan has now been watered down with amendments, exceptions and exclusions to apply to specific jurisdictions.

"It's rife with inconsistencies," he said at Monday's city council meeting, adding the draft RGS is now "a collection of local plans that masquerade as a regional plan."

"We need to make sure all the plans are melded together and are in concert with each other," he said.

During the 30-minute discussion, other council members also spoke about their fear of the regional body becoming a fourth level of government that would be controlled by Metro's three largest cities: Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby. Smaller municipalities could get shut out because of their weighted votes and regional planning would supersede local government autonomy.

Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam's planning GM, who chaired Metro's technical advisory committee for the RGS, told The Tri-City News after the council meeting his recommendation to council to not accept the document "was one of the hardest I've had to put my signature to in the past six years."

Meanwhile, council also unanimously agreed to re-designate the Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club lands from "general urban" - currently proposed in the RGS - to "conservation/recreation."

As well, council extended the "conservation/recreation" land use classification to all existing public parks and protected riparian corridors in Coquitlam - not just the large green spaces over the 25-acre threshold in the RGS.

Earlier this month, at a public input session, council heard from a number of speakers about the need to protect the golf club and parks from future development.

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