Port Moody mayoral candidate Rob Vagramov says the Moody Centre neighbourhood offers a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to custom build an area of the city to attract an anchor employer.
The city’s current mayor, Mike Clay, who’s seeking his third term in the position, says pieces like recreation, restaurants, daycare and other infrastructure are already falling into place but their realization is a long and arduous process that doesn’t happen “by accident.”
The two adversaries for Port Moody’s top job squared off last Thursday at the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce’s all-candidates debate held at the Inlet Theatre.
Clay told the packed house that getting Telus to build a fibre optic cable network in Port Moody took four years of negotiation. He said having such a network in place will be key to attracting high-quality employers offering good jobs like high tech companies into areas of the city like Moody Centre.
Vagramov said other considerations like a community’s quality of life and its parks are equally important and he claims the city is failing in those areas.
“The outlook for the future is overdevelopment,” Vagramov said. “We’ve taken a step towards that.”
Clay called that “hyperbole,” saying, “This 'wall of towers' in Moody Centre is stuff that’s in the 40-year planning window. It doesn’t mean it’s in progress.”
Clay said the city needs to work closely with developers to ensure enough housing, and the right kinds of housing, are being built that will provide opportunities for young people to live and work in the city.
“We need to be doing the job on the ground,” he said.
Vagramov said that aggressive courting of developers is part of the problem that is putting Port Moody out of reach as a place to live and to conduct business.
“When developers get exactly what they ask for, the consequence is land values and taxes soar,” Vagramov said, adding speculation and higher taxes are chasing many local established businesses out of areas like Moody Centre.
Clay said the battle to rein in land assessment values and their consequential impact on taxes needs to be fought at a higher level, something he has the experience and commitment to accomplish.
“As the mayor of the city, you’re the spokesperson for the city and you’re the face of the city,” he said. “That’s what I spend my time on.”
But Vagramov said that spokesperson needs to champion a new message that considers park expansion and an appreciation for nature.