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This prominent Port Moody corner has been vacant for years: is this plan for it the right fit?

The corner where a 222-unit condo complex is being proposed used to be the home of the old Barnet Hotel
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A rendering of a 222-unit condo project being proposed by Marcon for the old Barnet Hotel site in Port Moody.

Port Moody residents will get a chance to decide if they like what’s being planned for the old Barnet Hotel site.

Tuesday, council gave second reading to zoning bylaw amendments required for a 222-unit condo complex being proposed for the site — at the corner of St. Johns and Albert streets, where they meet the Barnet Highway — by Langley-based Marcon Developments.

Several councillors said they liked the way the project, to be comprised of two six-storey buildings, has evolved since they first got a formal look at it almost two years ago.

Then, the proposal included 242 units — more than half of them one-bedroom or studio apartments — a ground-floor commercial component and a variance so the developer could infringe five metres into the riparian zone around South Schoolhouse Creek that cuts across a corner of the property.

The latest iteration lowers the number of smaller apartments while increasing two-bedroom units from 78 to 91, and three-bedroom units from four to nine.

As well, the developer boosted its affordable housing package in proportion to the whole project, committing 23 units to be rented at below-market rates and another 10 to a rent-to-own program, along with a sales strategy that favours local buyers.

The commercial component has also more than doubled in size to 1,414 sq. m. including office space on the second floor. A staff report anticipates 73 jobs could be created.

And, said Marcon’s vice-president of development, Nic Paolella, the company is no longer seeking a variance as the building has been reconfigured slightly so it doesn’t jut into the  protected riparian area.

But, he added, the 13,000 sq. ft. area bordering the creek will still be dedicated to the city.

Coun. Meghan Lahti said Marcon had addressed the “shopping list” council gave the developer last September when it put second reading on hold to give the company an opportunity to refine the project.

That list included more family-friendly units, doubling the amount of job-generating space, eliminating any encroachment into the area around the creek and building more affordable units.

“They’ve provided exactly what we’ve asked for,” she said.

But Coun. Hunter Madsen said he still has concerns about the impact the project will have on the already busy corner that is also the primary access point to nearby Port Moody Secondary School.

He said the intersection is a “critical choke point” that won’t “be a pretty picture when you add so many new residents,” suggesting a new traffic study of the area is needed.

Coun. Steve Milani agreed.

“I have a feeling the community is really going to be up in arms about hitting that intersection with more traffic,” he said.

But Lahti said that’s something the community should get the opportunity to express at a public hearing.

“We can’t keep micromanaging these projects,” she said. “It’s time for us to move this onto the community’s plate.”

Coun. Zoe Royer said she thinks they’ll like what they see.

“I think this is going to be an asset to the community,” she said.

And while Coun. Diana Dilworth expressed some reservations about how many Port Moody families will be able to afford a three-bedroom condo in the complex when going rates for such units in the city can approach almost $3 million, she said the project will be a marked improvement over the overgrown, empty lot that’s been vacant for years.

“I drive by that big pile of dirt and I think of the opportunities,” she said. “I think they’ve brought something quite attractive.”