Port Moody won’t sell fire hall site

Port Moody's former fire hall site at Ioco Road and Murray Street, as well as the nearby public works yard, won’t be sold to a private developer.

At its meeting last Tuesday, council instructed staff to report back with options for the future of the properties that don’t include a possible sale.

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Mayor Rob Vagramov said the decision is a realization of the sentiment expressed by voters in last October’s civic election, when they rejected by 53% to 47% the idea of selling the properties as a way to fund new amenities like a new library, seniors housing or park space.

The fire hall site has been vacant since the Inlet Centre fire hall opened next door in 2014. The public works yard will be vacated when a new yard is opened at the city’s old landfill on Barnet Highway.

The “community opinion question” was commissioned after council decided in April 2018 to defer a proposal to rezone and amend the designation of the two properties to facilitate their redevelopment into a dense, mixed-use neighbourhood.

But Coun. Diana Dilworth called the decision to preclude any possibility of selling the sites “short-sighted,” even if only a portion of the properties was sold to help pay for much-needed amenities.

“It would be foolhardy for us to remove that option,” she said.

Vagramov countered that leasing the sites to a developer could still be considered.

“I couldn’t imagine this conversation without leasing or partial leasing being part of the discussion,” he said, adding, “The whole idea is to get rid of sale as an option forever.”

Coun. Zoe Royer echoed the sentiment of several councillors “that public lands remain public.”

Meanwhile, the fencing around the fire hall property will be coming down and the site will be cleared of materials such as pipes and storage containers that are being kept there because there isn’t space at the works yard.

The city’s various civic committees will also be given the opportunity to come up with ideas to program the property, although Vagramov said those likely won’t include a petting zoo, which was one of the ideas he'd offered in his report to council. At Tuesday’s meeting, Vagramov quipped he was no longer “attached” to it, though, he added, “It would be great for the public to enjoy that space."

Coun. Meghan Lahti said any temporary use of the site has to be just that, so users don’t become too attached to it. That would be one of the perils of planting a community garden, she said.

“Ultimately we want to put something on that property that will have value to the community,” she said.

Coun. Hunter Madsen agreed, saying, “This is one of the premier spots in the city. It’s about time we get talking about what we’re going to do about that space.”

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