Port Moody council has put an “urgent” call to curb development in Moody Centre and concentrate on job creation on hold.
A 20-page report by Acting Mayor Hunter Madsen — titled "More than a Bedroom Community!" — proposed a high-tech hub around the Moody Centre SkyTrain station to create high-paying jobs for Port Moody.
Madsen said the city should immediately begin the process of changing its official community plan (OCP) to reflect that vision.
But after a long, contentious debate Tuesday evening, council voted to defer the “urgent” call until after a consortium of developers, landowners and TransLink presents its planned proposal for the area — a proposal that has been in the works for more than 18 months and in consultation with city staff.
Representatives of Anthem Properties, Woodbridge Properties, Beedie Living and PCI Developments, along with three landowners, made statements to council saying Madsen’s motion would put an end its proposal, which endeavours to meet the current OCP zoning provisions.
They also pointed out it was the city that approached them about coming together.
John Wildman, whose family owns 3066 to 3078 St. John St., said Madsen’s proposal was a shock and a different direction than what has been in the works for so long.
“After 45 years of paying taxes in Port Moody, I feel we are being completely betrayed and abandoned in putting this process through,” said Wildman.
His brother, Ashley Wildman, said the consortium’s proposal, which he noted has been “costly” to produce, will be the result of an unprecedented level of cooperation and will benefit Port Moody.
“It appears this process has been hijacked by a personal agenda that just appeared a week ago,” said Ashley.
Curtis Neeser, vice-president of development for Beedie, said the consortium’s plans will include suitable employment space, and to have as large an employment component as Madsen is proposing “ignores all the other aspects that make a vibrant, inclusive neighbourhood which would be put at risk.”
“We were very shocked and surprised to see Acting Mayor Hunter Madsen’s report,” Neeser said.
Madsen said he made his proposal because fewer than 12% of Port Moody residents work in the city while those numbers in other municipalities are much higher. He said he’s worried that will mean more of a tax burden for homeowners. He also said business tax makes up 40 to 45% of tax revenue in other cities but only 32% in Port Moody.
The OCP, he added, calls for creating 4,200 jobs across the city, which he labeled “barely treading water.”
“The pressure falls on the only places where we can create an economic hub,” said Madsen, referring to Moody Centre.
While he received support from councillors Amy Lubik and Steve Milani, the other three councillors said it was unrealistic.
Coun. Diana Dilworth said Madsen is painting an apocalyptic future. “I say that’s folly.”
She said the city’s OCP could be opened up for discussion at the end of the year and the proper process respected.
Dilworth noted ever since the Evergreen Line was contemplated, there was talk of bringing high-tech to the city but said, “Those high-tech businesses did not want to come to Port Moody.”
As well, the consortium’s plans could be kiboshed before coming to council, she said.
“I’m embarrassed by that," she said. "I have seen a glimpse of the plans and it looks like a great starting point for what we want.”
Coun. Meghan Lahti said the appropriate time to start discussion of the topic is at a workshop scheduled for Aug. 6 between council members and the city’s planning staff.
“The hyperbole is quite offensive,” Lahti said of Madsen’s report. “It’s unnecessary. It does not bring about collegial process. It doesn’t help this council. It’s very divisive.
"There has been no hand wringing. There is no crisis. There are no fuzzy messages, there’s no saving of the city.”
Coun. Zoë Royer said Madsen’s call for 80% commercial space in Moody Centre “is a lofty vision but it’s not possible.”
“I would have loved even 50% ratio of jobs to residents,” said Royer. “I would have loved that, but I actually know it’s not possible.
"Hypothetically, if we do support this motion, and I believe it’s well intentioned, we could have a scenario where nothing happens for 20 years… It’s just not doable.”
But at the end of the meeting, Royer moved a motion to defer Madsen’s report to a future council meeting after the consortium’s plans are presented. If she had voted with Dilworth and Lahti to reject the report, it would have died at the council table because of the 3-3 split vote (Mayor Rob Vagramov is on a leave of absence as he faces a sexual assault charge.)
“Let’s look at [the consortium’s plans]. What would be the harm?” Royer said.
After the meeting, as members of the consortium huddled, PCI vice president Tim Grant said that while rejecting Madsen’s proposal would have been preferred, the deferral at least gives them a chance to present their case. “That’s all we’ve been looking for is council engagement,” he said.