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Future of fire hall property going to referendum

The future of the former fire hall site and the public works yard will be decided by the residents of Port Moody.
fire hall property
At its meeting Tuesday, Port Moody council decided to defer a decision on amending the zoning and designation of the old fire hall and public works yard property and refer it to a referendum on Oct. 20.

The future of the former fire hall site and the public works yard will be decided by the residents of Port Moody.

At its meeting Tuesday, Port Moody council voted to defer a proposal to rezone and change the designation of the property at Ioco Road and Murray Street from public and institutional use to comprehensive development. The changes could have paved the way for the city to subdivide the property and sell the two parcels to developers for redevelopment into a high-density neighbourhood of condo towers, commercial space as well as a possible new library and seniors housing.

Instead, voters will be asked whether the property should be retained by the city or sold for redevelopment in a referendum to be held in conjunction with civic elections Oct. 20.

The decision came after more than 20 speakers stepped to the microphone at a public hearing into the city’s proposal for the property held prior to Tuesday’s council meeting. Many of those speakers expressed opposition to the possibility of the city land being sold for redevelopment.

“Once this land is gone, we’ll never get it back,” said one of the speakers, David Ungless. “There has to be a red line and that has to be no sale of key public land.”

But others said redevelopment of the property would facilitate much-needed public amenities like the construction of a new library, seniors housing and new sports fields. Council had suggested funding for public amenities would be part of any density bonuses negotiated with developers to allow them to increase the height of any condo towers from 26 to 34 storeys.

Pat Merrett, the chair of the Port Moody Library board, was accompanied by several other board members when she pleaded for more space.

“The old fire hall site could provide the opportunity for a new library,” she said.

But Joan Stewart said such a facility doesn’t have to come attached to more condo towers.

“The community is overwhelmed by the pace of development,” she said. “We don’t want another highrise at this corner.”

Amy Lubik urged council to think of “innovative solutions” to achieve those public amenities without selling public property to private developers.

Coun. Zoe Royer, who moved the motion to defer council’s decision and refer it to a referendum, agreed.

“I believe we can get a new library, seniors housing and a beautiful soccer field without selling our public land,” she said. “It’s a very emotional issue.”

But Mayor Mike Clay said the changes to the site’s zoning and designation are key components to determine its worth and how that might be leveraged to help the city attain amenities.

“The value of going where we were going with this is to explore opportunity here,” he said. “Do you want this to be an abandoned fire hall site and public works yard?”

In making its decision, council directed staff to report on further details required by voters to inform their decision, the process and costs of a referendum as well as potential wording options for the question to be asked on ballots.