On Tuesday evening (April 26), I attended a five-hour public hearing for an OCP change to accommodate what must be the largest development proposal in Port Moody’s history: Over 2,600 units, mostly market condos, to house some 5,300 new residents in 150 storeys across six towers.
Most of the residents who addressed council were Coronation Park residents who'd be directly affected, having been drawn from the limited notice area one might have expected the city to contact if this were just a six-storey condo project rather than the “game-changing master-planned community” touted by the proponent, Wesgroup.
No wonder some at the provincial level question the efficacy of public hearings if all councils hear from are those with a vested financial interest in seeing a development go forward, as opposed to the general public that will be impacted for decades to come.
More perplexing that night was council’s willingness to let things run on so long: Not just a vote on the OCP change, but also on further amendments debated with bleary eyes well past 1 a.m., which is a great way to thin an audience.
The process in place cannot work if more residents are not informed and given the opportunity to become truly engaged.
In saying this, I do not want to dismiss those in Coronation Park who did come to speak up and are rightfully frustrated to have watched their neighbourhood deteriorate over recent years, as a series of potential land-assemblies fell apart; they came to say, please, let us get on with our lives.
Port Moody's future is at a watershed moment, facing a pipeline of significant redevelopment proposals such as Woodland Park, Moody Centre TOD, Oceanfront Flavelle and Coronation Park, which could double the city's size in just a couple decades.
If Wesgroup's pitch style reflects what's to come, we can expect our elected officials to be bullied into projects that offer little in the way of affordable or social housing, and that don't contribute enough in city fees to cover the costs of population growth they'll bring, costs passed instead onto local taxpayers.
Even the amenities package falls short: Wesgroup’s offer of 120 daycare spots sounds ample until you imagine 5,300 new residents jostling for them.
Redevelopment of our community is both necessary and inevitable, especially near transit, but it must be proportionate development that recognizes the actual needs, aspirations and full economic diversity of Port Moody's families — not just yet more high end condos.
With Port Moody's community midway into reshaping and updating its next community plan, this might be a good time to pause on committing to such significant projects while we think through where all this is really going.
Let’s not be bullied. Let’s do better.