A gravel path through Port Moody’s Bert Flinn Park that's frequented by hikers, dog walkers, runners and cyclists won’t be turned into a road.
At its meeting Tuesday, city council voted to remove the right-of-way through the park that has been designated in Port Moody’s official community plan (OCP) as a possible extension of David Avenue for 20 years.
Council is also amending the OCP to limit any future development of the 232-acre Ioco lands at the very west end of the city’s north shore to its current single-family zoning, potentially putting on hold a major planned development.
Coun. Hunter Madsen, who co-founded a citizens group opposed to the construction of any kind of roadway through the 311-acre park before he was first elected to council in 2017, said removing the “mirage” of the right-of-way eliminates the temptation for developers to densify the area.
“Under no circumstance should they be densified,” Madsen said of the Ioco lands, the former townsite for workers at the old Imperial Oil refinery nearby that was acquired by Hong Kong-based developer Brilliant Circle Group in 2015.
While the company has yet to unveil any plans for the property, which currently could accommodate up to 111 single-family homes, it did hold several public open houses in 2015 and 2017. Architect Peter Busby said he envisioned a new waterfront-oriented community with bistros and restaurant patios overlooking Burrard Inlet, and possibly even a ferry connection to Rocky Point Park.
But Coun. Zoe Royer said until council sees some kind of solid development proposal for the Ioco lands, there’s no need of a road being built through Bert Flinn Park.
“I really believe many people don’t perceive a threat,” she said, adding the park has been undisturbed for the two decades since it was officially proclaimed in 1999 following a civic referendum.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said amending the OCP to restrict development on the Ioco lands circumvents the usual process that involves considerable consultation with the public.
“It’s a little high-handed,” she said, adding the latest effort to remove the right-of-way and amend the OCP that was put forth by Mayor Rob Vagramov walks over a decision made by council in a split vote in May to maintain the status quo.
But Vagramov was absent from council at the time, after he had took a leave of absence while he contested a charge of sexual assault. Vagramov wrote in a report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting that the results of last October’s civic vote that elected several councillors opposed to a roadway through Bert Flinn Park, as well as “countless emails to council spanning several years” and public consultation, necessitated another look at the issue.
Dilworth accused the mayor of “trying to rewrite decisions” he “didn’t agree with.”
Madsen, on the other hand, said the decision had actually been made last November, when a motion to remove the right of way was passed by council while Dilworth and Coun. Meghan Lahti were away on vacation.
That decision was successfully deferred by Dilworth last January until council could complete work on formulating its strategic plan and then again by Lahti in February.
Madsen dismissed those efforts as “procedural,” adding “the direction is settled.”
Tuesday, Lahti said council “just needs to make a decision,” adding, “We have to get on with the business of the city.”