#POMOvotes2018: Referendum gives voters a say in fate of fire hall property

Port Moody voters won’t just be casting ballots for mayor, council and school trustee on Oct. 20.

They’ll also get a chance to have their say in determining the fate of the city’s former fire hall site at the corner of Ioco Road and Murray Street as well as the nearby public works yard.

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The fire hall site has been vacant since the opening of the new Inlet Centre fire hall next door in 2014. The public works yard, a little further west along Murray Street, is scheduled to be relocated to a new site on Barnet Highway.

Last April, Port Moody council voted to defer a proposal to rezone and change the designation of the properties. Those changes would have allowed the city to explore opportunities to sell the properties to a developer to build a mix of residential and commercial buildings up to 26 storeys as well as construct civic amenities such as a new library, public plaza and seniors housing in return for density bonuses.

But that idea was scuttled following a boisterous public meeting that heard from more than 20 speakers, many of them opposed to selling the land for development.

Instead, councillors opted to put the matter on hold until after a non-binding referendum question to be included on ballots in the Oct. 20 elections.

The question voters will be asked 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?”

The question will be prefaced by some background information of 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.

And while Port Moody council won’t be bound by the results of the referendum question, a statement on the city’s website said vote results “will provide important input about the community’s wishes” that can be used in future decisions.

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