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Drive-thru could derail 'innovative' Port Moody development, councillors say

The six-storey mixed-use project would be constructed on the Port Moody site of a current A&W drive-thru restaurant.
A rendering of a new six-storey mixed-use project being proposed for St. Johns Street in Port Moody.

No more drive-thru restaurants.

That's the message from Port Moody councillors who got an early look Tuesday, Sept. 5 at a proposal for a new six-storey mixed-use building on St Johns Street where an A&W drive-thru is currently located, as well as the old Rocky Point Tap House next door.

The project, by the fast food restaurant's owner, Roger Milad, as well as Mara + Nantha Architecture, includes a new drive-thru for the burger joint as part of 7,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on its ground floor, along with office space on the second floor totalling nearly 12,000 sq. ft.

The top four floors of the building would be comprised of 60 residential units, 15 which would be below-market rental apartments, 15 would be market rentals and 30 would be strata condos.

Carola Thompson of CityState Consulting that's working with the developer, told councillors the composition of the project, with its 52 one-bedroom apartments and only eight with two bedrooms, makes it an ideal landing spot for young entrepreneurs who want to work at home or close to home.

But, she added, keeping the homes affordable for that demographic requires the drive-thru.

Thompson said the project has the potential to create more than 120 jobs between the restaurant and other commercial and office spaces as well as residents working from home.

"That's more than the city's targets" for a development of this size, she said.

But, said Coun. Kyla Knowles, while the project's overall concept is "interesting" and "will fit into the character of this neighbourhood," the inclusion of the drive-thru and its two-driveways required for vehicles to enter and exit, along with another driveway for an underground parkade presents problems for pedestrians.

"There's too many pinch points, too many entrances and exits," she said, adding the smell from fast food might also not be so pleasant for people living above the burger restaurant.

Coun. Diana Dilworth said allowing the drive-thru flies in the face of Port Moody's commitment to its climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging less use of cars.

"This may have to be one of the big moves the developer will have to make," she said.

Coun. Amy Lubik said the developer's approach is "innovative," but the inclusion of the drive-thru is "a sticking point.

"I'm not sure how we would fix the ingress/egress problem."

Mayor Meghan Lahti said while the proposal has a lot going for it, including the potential jobs it could create and its attractiveness to young entrepreneurs, she also can’t support the drive-thru.

Coun. Callan Morrison agreed.

"We've got to figure that one out," he said.

Port Moody's assistant manager of development, Wesley Woo, said new drive-thru's are no longer allowed by the city's zoning bylaws but existing ones have been grandfathered in. He said including a drive-thru in the new project would require council’s approval as a non-conforming use.

Woo said other concerns about the project identified by staff include its lack of larger units with enough bedrooms to accommodate families as well as the possible lack of natural light reaching apartments on the third and fourth floors around a narrow inner atrium.

The developer will now have the opportunity to make amendments to the proposal based upon staff and councillors' input before submitting its formal application for rezoning the site from commercial to mixed use. The plan already conforms to the city's official community plan.

📣 SOUND OFF: Should drive-thru restaurants still be allowed, or are they a dinosaur from a different time? Would you want to live above one? Send us a letter to the editor. Please be sure to include your full name and city of residence.