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Is Port Moody's land management strategy a 'blueprint' to sell public properties or 'leveraging current assets' to acquire amenities?

In 2018, Port Moody voters in a referendum rejected a plan to sell or lease some city properties to developers
Revisions to Port Moody's land managment strategy will allow the city to better leverage its public properties like the old fire hall site at the corner of Ioco Road and Murray Street, say some councillors.

A Port Moody councillor is raising the alarm the city’s revised land management strategy is a “blueprint” for selling off its public properties.

But Port Moody’s general manager of finance and technology, Paul Rockwood, said before the sale of any city property could occur, it would have to go through rigorous consideration by staff and council, including an opportunity for public consultation.

Rockwood said updates to the strategy, which was originally approved in 2007 and revised in 2017, are necessary so the city can proactively manage its assets to provide the greatest benefit to the community.

“A land management strategy needs to be flexible as the views, needs and wishes of the community will evolve, as will the community’s relationship with the land,” Rockwood said in a memo presented to council’s strategic priorities committee on Tuesday, June 18. “Intentioned decisions on these land holding will allow council to consider if the greatest benefit will be achieved.”

However, Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said Port Moody residents don’t want to see city properties sold off.

“City land is owned by everyone in the city,” she said. “I’m concerned about the monetization of public assets, it always benefits the private sector.”

Lurbiecki said retaining Port Moody’s public properties will be key to being able to use them for future amenities as the city continues to grow, like parks, a larger library or new recreation facilities.

“We need those spaces to expand our amenities.”

But other councillors said being able sell city land is just what the city requires to achieve such amenities.

“It’s about leveraging current assets to acquire new assets,” said Coun. Kyla Knowles. “This is for the fiscal health of our city in the long term. It’s about deciding where we want things to go.”

Coun. Callan Morrison pointed to other cities like Burnaby that successfully use their assets to achieve amenities.

“If we can sell a strategic piece of property for significantly more to meet the needs of the community, that’s what we should do.”

Rockwood said any decision to sell city property would consider professional real estate expertise, analysis of the market and associated risks, best practices and financial sustainability. He said the revised strategy includes a provision that 50 per cent of the proceeds the city realizes from a sale would go toward the acquisition and development of new properties.

Coun. Samantha Agtarap said the updates to the city’s land management strategy will allow Port Moody to get a better idea of the value of its public lands

“Now we have a framework to have those conversations about the value of properties and what we can do with them.”

In 2018, Port Moody voters in a referendum that was part of the Oct. 20 civic election rejected a plan that would have seen the site of the city’s old fire hall at the corner of Ioco Road and Murray Street, along with the public works yard a little further west on Murray, subdivided and sold off or leased for a mixed-use development that could include a new library and seniors housing.

SPEAK OUT: Do you think Port Moody should look at selling some of its public properties so it can acquire amenities like a new library or expand parks? What amenities would you like to see in the city? Send us a Letter to the Editor. Please be sure to include your full name and city of residence.