'Livability' a priority for Port Coquitlam

Port Coquitlam city hall adds "livablility" to its strategic priority list to include affordability, economic development, the sale of surplus lands and its relationship with Kwikwetlem First Nation.

Port Coquitlam has rejigged its corporate priorities to include a mandate to make the city more "livable."

Last week, at the city's budget and infrastructure committee, council voted to add the new focus to give managers a better direction as they prepare 2017 and '18 work plans.

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Adding "livable" to the city's two other strategic priorities — infrastructure and the new community recreation complex — means council and staff will narrow their lens on such topics as affordability, the arts, the environment, economic development and transportation, for example.

But the definition of "livable" also will include how the city will handle its surplus lands in the future as well as a goal to build relationships with the Kwikwetlem First Nation (KFN).

On Thursday, Mayor Greg Moore told The Tri-City News he has met with KFN Chief Ron Giesbrecht several times this year to talk about the upcoming development on its reserve, which is located within the city boundaries (the city is working on a servicing agreement to provide utilities and other infrastructure to the KFN site).

He said they have also talked about KFN's land claim in Port Coquitlam — namely, on Gates Park and a 15-acre parcel known as the South Shaughnessy Lands, the city's biggest land holding close to the Pitt River Road intersection.

KFN's land claim against PoCo was launched in B.C. Supreme Court in February in conjunction with territorial title claims for the Riverview Hospital grounds and Colony Farm regional park, both in Coquitlam. 

Mayor Moore told The Tri-City News his negotiations with Chief Giesbrecht have been "a work in progress. We are still talking. Nobody has gone back to the court process."

The city's chief administrative officer, John Leeburn, also confirmed the municipality has yet to file a response to the KFN land claim.

Moore and Leeburn stressed the inclusion of the KFN within the city's new "livable" mandate was not connected to the land claims.

"[KFN] are in the process of wanting to develop their lands and so that's a good thing for Port Coquitlam because whatever they do there… then that's a whole lot of potential jobs for Port Coquitlam residents," Leeburn said, adding, "Being good neighbours going forward is important."

Moore also denied that any potential sale of municipally owned lands would be used to finance the city's second strategic priority: the new community recreation centre, a replacement for the PoCo recreation complex.

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Moore said a full report about the new rec centre — including expenses, revenues and timing — will be released at the Nov. 14 city council meeting.

"I appreciate the patience of the community because it's one of our biggest infrastructure projects that we're going build in decades and there's a lot of detail to be negotiated with the builder, and that's what we've been working very hard on," he said.

He added: "We think we've come up with a funding strategy that allows us to build a facility that the community has been asking for but, at the same time, respects the mandate that we've had to keep taxes as low as possible."

Leeburn added the projected price and the funding options would be drilled down next month as council prepares its 2017 draft budget. The budget and infrastructure committee is set to meet Dec. 5 and 6 to discuss the financial plan.

Little has been revealed about the new community rec complex since May, when the city announced Burnaby-based Ventana Construction — the same company that built the Langley Events Centre and the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack— would work with Quantum Properties and Architecture 49 to get the complex up. 

The 15-acre downtown parcel will also include housing and commercial space.

Last summer, as the federal government announced $12.5 million in funding for the project, the city estimated the new rec complex would cost around $96.8 million. 

jcleugh@tricitynews.com

@jcleughTC

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