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Council will continue to discuss ‘dystopian’ vision for Port Moody’s future

A Port Moody councillor says the city is in for a dire, overcrowded future if steps aren't taken to reign in development of condo towers. But some of his fellow councillors don't agree. They say residents should determine the city's future direction through the review of its official community plan that is in the early stages of public engagement.
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Port Moody councillor Hunter Madsen says the if the city's future growth is weighed too heavily on condo towers in areas like Moody Centre, they will blot out the natural environs, worsen traffic congestion, overcrowd parks and tax already strained amenities like the library and rec centre.

Port Moody councillors will continue to discuss what Coun. Hunter Madsen calls a “think piece” about the city’s future.

But there was less enthusiasm at Tuesday’s council meeting for adopting any of its recommendations outright.

In a sprawling 55-page report Madsen said he produced while recovering from foot surgery, the politician paints what a fellow councillor characterized as a “dystopian” picture of Port Moody.

In his report, the city’s natural environs could be veiled by dozens of tall condo towers; its streets choked with traffic and construction; its signature park at Rocky Point overwhelmed by thousands of new residents of those towers, with no place else to go; and the city’s other amenities like the library, rec centre and fire department strained by increasing demands for their services.

“Indeed, the next few decades may very well bring the most turbulent transformation of any period since the city’s incorporation in 1913,” Madsen wrote in his report, entitled Shaping the Next Port Moody. “Environmental crisis, information technology, and population growth will be altering much about the way we live.”

But, several guidelines proposed by Madsen could form a framework for Port Moody’s growth, he wrote, and such a grim future can still be avoided by:

  • reining in the pace of residential development and tower construction so they don’t allow the city to exceed its projected population of 50,000 by 2041
  • putting a greater emphasis on the city’s economic growth and employment opportunities
  • considering proposed development projects in the context of their cumulative effect on residents’ quality of life

Several councillors, however, took umbrage with Madsen’s dire prognostications and said his recommendations to prevent them from being realized cuts the legs out from under the city’s review of its official community plan (OCP), which is currently in its early stages of public engagement.

Coun. Diana Dilworth said Madsen’s document “might instil a fear in residents on concepts that might never come to fruition.”

She said Port Moody faced similar alarmist worries when it was considering allowing construction of its very first condo tower at Newport Village.

“You would have thought the sky was falling,” she said, adding instead the 12 condo towers that comprise the Newport and Suter Brook developments have improved residents’ quality of life and enlivened the community.

Coun. Meghan Lahti said while the report raises some important issues, Port Moody isn’t alone in having to deal with them: Residents need the opportunity to express their concerns without being spoon-fed preconceived ideas, she said.

“Perhaps the residents of this community aren’t concerned about some of the things Coun. Madsen is worried about,” Lahti said, adding the public consultation process of the OCP review should be allowed to play out.

Dilworth agreed. “I very much trust our community to tell us what they need and what they want.”

Still, Lahti suggested, council should continue to discuss some of the areas of concern raised by Madsen’s report and perhaps find common ground with the community to guide decisions about the city’s growth. “That would help show leadership and collaboration to the community,” she said. “This is how we come together as a council and as a community.”

Mayor Rob Vagramov said the next opportunity for council to discuss the report in a committee of the whole meeting won’t happen for about a month.