PoMo referendum question unveiled

Port Moody voters will get a chance to help determine the fate of the former fire hall site and the nearby public works yard during the Oct. 20 municipal elections. And Monday, they learned the question they’ll be asked on a special referendum ballot.

The question is: “Do you support the sale, partial sale or lease of the former fire hall and existing works yard sites to pay for more park land and one or more of the community improvements listed above?”

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It was posted to the city’s website late Monday afternoon. The question will be prefaced by some background information about potential community improvements targeted by the city’s official community plan and how the sale of the properties might play a role in realizing those improvements.

The question and background context were drafted by city staff for review and approval by city council, said the city’s acting general manager, Paul Rockwood.

Last April, Port Moody council voted to defer a proposal to rezone and change the designation of the properties at Ioco Road and Murray Street from public and institutional use to comprehensive development after a long and boisterous public hearing. Many of the more than 20 speakers at that hearing opposed selling the land to private developers while others said such a sale could facilitate new opportunities for the city to expand its public library, build housing for seniors or add new sports fields.

Mayor Mike Clay said at the time the city needed to rezone and redesignate usages for the land so it could see how much it’s worth and how that could be leveraged to attain amenities even before it could consider selling the properties.

The old fire hall site at the corner of Ioco Road and Murray Street has been an empty lot surrounded by steel fencing since the opening of the new Inlet fire hall next door in 2014. 

The public works yard and buildings on Murray Street, just to the west of the fire hall property, are 50 years old and have been deemed inadequate for the city’s needs. A new, larger yard is planned for land the city already owns on Barnet Highway.

The two properties are separated by Suterbrook Creek. Their combined size is more than 201,000 sq. ft.

Last June, the city issued a request for proposals (RFP) for potential redevelopment of the site by a single developer.

“These properties present a unique opportunity to provide a comprehensive landmark development, consistent with previous high-quality and successful developments,” said a statement in the RFP about the potential project’s scope. “City council recognizes that these properties are extremely valuable city assets and will be looking to leverage them to provide valuable community amenities and enhancements to the natural environment.”

The document also said the properties must be developed in phases “in a timely manner.”

A request for expressions of interest issued by the city in December 2016 “confirmed a strong desire from developers to develop the properties,” according to the document.

The RFP proposes a base market residential density of 504,601 sq. ft. with the potential for an additional 291,390 sq. ft. depending on the type and value of amenities a developer could offer the city. Those amenities are expected to include a new library from 30,000 to 50,000 sq. ft. as well as 50 units of below-market rental housing along with 60,000 sq. ft. of supported housing for seniors.

The city would also seek the construction of a public plaza that “will become a focal point for a range of community activities and events” in the first phase of the project.

The RFP closed Aug. 1 and the city said it would open for award until March 1, 2019.

While the city won’t be bound by the results of the vote, it “will provide important input about the community’s wishes” that can be used in future decisions about the properties by council, said a statement on the city’s website.

A print version of the background information will be included in an election package being mailed to residents the week of Oct. 1.

mbartel@tricitynews.com

Sept. 12: The RFP for the fire hall site and public works yard will be open for award until March 1, 2019. An earlier version of the story was incorrect.

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