The right-of-way through Port Moody’s Bert Flinn Park isn’t going anywhere, although the city’s acting mayor isn't ruling out the possibility that the issue could be revisited in the future.
In a series of split votes at its meeting Tuesday, Port Moody council decided not to proceed on several motions that were deferred when they first came up for debate last January. Those motions would have paved the way for removing the right-of-way (ROW) that has been in place for several decades as a possible extension of David Avenue to connect with Anmore, as well as building additional parking spots at the Heritage Mountain Boulevard entrance along with a wheelchair-accessible trail.
Council did, however, elect to proceed with further communication with Metro Vancouver objecting to its planned expansion of parking facilities at Belcarra Regional Park. It also directed staff to continue with its examination for amending the city’s official community plan for the Ioco lands to limit the scope of its possible redevelopment in the future. That report is expected to be presented at a future council meeting.
Acting mayor Meghan Lahti said there’s too much the city doesn’t yet know about the planned redevelopment of the Ioco lands by their owner, Brilliant Circle Group, and the implications removing the ROW would have on providing access for emergency services as well as an escape route for residents of Anmore and Belcarra in case of a wildfire. She said the latter is particularly worrisome given the growing threat of such blazes as a consequence of climate change.
“Removal of the right-of-way would be irresponsible,” said Lahti, who was joined by councillors Diana Dilworth and Zoe Royer in defeating the various motions. (Councillors Hunter Madsen, Amy Lubik and Steve Milani voted for the motions, but in the case of a tie, motions are defeated.)
“There is no harm in leaving the status quo for the time being," she said.
After the meeting, Lahti told The Tri-City News Port Moody’s fire department is studying the access issue during emergencies in the area and the results could spark “a need to revisit the item in its entirety.”
But Madsen, who co-founded a citizen group called Save Bert Flinn Park and used the issue of the ROW through the 311-acre green space as a springboard to his election to council in a 2017 byelection and subsequent reelection in last year’s civic vote, said a route through the park is the last place that should be considered for access during a fire emergency.
“Bert Flinn Park is a tunnel of fuel,” he said.
In a letter Madsen sent to Belcarra's mayor and village council in late April, responding to their concerns about how removing the ROW could affect movement of vehicles to and from the village in case of a fire emergency, he said the existing gravel roadbed would remain.
“This is a cleared gravel roadway that’s two cars wide, that will remain in place… and that can always be accessed for vehicle exit from the area, at the discretion of the fire department, in case of emergency,” he wrote.
Dilworth, who, in January, successfully moved for the deferral of the motions that were initially endorsed by council last November so council could complete its strategic plan, said the reintroduction of the issue to council felt like a “rush to keep an election promise by some members of council.”
She said acceding to such a promise would undermine any future council that might have to consider transportation alternatives in the area as the region continues to grow, like a bridge to Vancouver’s North Shore.
But Lubik said that’s exactly the point of removing the ROW, to eliminate the temptation by developers to seek more density on Port Moody’s North Shore.
“Instead of urban sprawl, we need to densify around transit,” she said.
That could be achievable in this instance by “thinking outside the box,” Lahti said, suggesting the city could look at swapping its vacant property at the old fire hall site next to the civic complex to Brilliant Circle Group for space in the Ioco lands that could then be turned into a park and heritage area.
“In a perfect world, I’m hoping there’s a better solution,” Lahti said.