Port Moody councillor calls meeting cancellation ‘gamesmanship’

A veteran Port Moody councillor is accusing the city’s acting mayor of “gamesmanship” after a meeting involving councillors and city staff scheduled for last Tuesday was abruptly cancelled, then rescheduled for Sept. 10.

But Coun. Hunter Madsen, who's filling in while Mayor Rob Vagramov is on leave to address a sexual assault charge, said he pulled the plug on the meeting to discuss future transit-oriented development in Moody Centre when its format was changed from an open, informal workshop to a closed session.

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Coun. Diana Dilworth said the meeting’s cancellation sends a bad message to a consortium of developers and property owners in Moody Centre that has been working with city staff for 18 months to devise a plan for the area that surrounds the Moody Centre SkyTrain station.

“It’s difficult to get eight property owners together,” she said of the group that is comprised of representatives from Anthem Properties, Woodbridge Properties, Beedie Living and PCI Developments, along with three landowners. “This is an opportunity to put their vision to the public.”

But Madsen, whose effort to introduce his own idea to develop the neighbourhood as a high-tech and education hub was deferred by council July 16 and defeated one week later, said it’s exactly the public that would have been kept in the dark had the closed meeting proceeded. He said before council can provide specific direction to city staff, it needs a better idea of Moody Centre’s long-term housing needs.

“I can’t imagine how we could competently appraise the consortium concept without knowing the city’s actual housing targets,” Madsen said, adding  the meeting’s “switch of focus and format raised concerns.”

Tim Savoie, Port Moody’s city manager, said the terms of the meeting were revised when the city’s corporate officer, Dorothy Shermer, determined its scope met the requirements for a closed session. Those can include any discussions about “the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements,” or discussions and negotiations “respecting the proposed provision of a municipal service.”

Dilworth said Madsen’s “urgent” call July 16 to curb development in Moody Centre to concentrate instead on creating high-tech and education jobs was also premature.

“Port Moody is not ready to host a high-tech hub yet,” she said. “We need to put our own house in order before we proceed with that.”

Dilworth said the consortium’s plan could have components that preclude Madsen’s high-tech vision.

Madsen said he looks forward to learning more about the consortium plan — after council has had an opportunity to talk about how the city can realize its four-year strategic plan.

“We respect that group and are eager to sit down again soon,” he said. “The two sides have many months of collaborative dialogue ahead.”

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