Vagramov resolution defeated; Port Moody council to work together on Moody Centre guidelines

A motion by Port Moody’s mayor to curtail development around the Moody Centre SkyTrain station before land owners and developers could even take their proposals to the public was defeated Saturday due to a tie vote of council.

Port Moody council will now meet in the next few weeks to formulate a common voice about its expectations for the redevelopment of its commercial core adjacent to the transit station.

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In an extraordinary weekend meeting of council’s committee of the whole, a motion to put forth a series of parameters to the consortium of developers and property owners working to redevelop the 23-acre neighbourhood that had been introduced by Mayor Rob Vagramov at last Tuesday’s regular meeting was defeated by a tie vote, with councillors Diana Dilworth, Zoe Royer and Amy Lubik opposed while Vagramov and councillors Hunter Madsen and Steve Milani supported it (Coun. Meghan Lahti was absent).

Instead, council will convene a workshop to hash out a series of proposals they can all agree on that will then go to a future meeting of the committee of the whole for public scrutiny and debate.

Royer equated the new direction as a “reset” of the often acrimonious discussion at last Tuesday’s regular session of committee of the whole, which was abruptly adjourned when a vote to extend the meeting past its 10 p.m. time limit didn’t get unanimous assent (Dilworth voted against).

“We do want to continue the conversation,” Royer said. “We do want to explore the possibilities.”

In the wake of the Jan. 21 meeting, several councillors expressed dismay that Vagramov’s resolution — which included requests that the consortium temper the project’s density, concentrate more on creating “high-value” employment opportunities and reduce the number of residential towers as well as limit and vary their height, “significantly” increase its market rental and below-market rental housing components, and add more green space — could stop the project in its tracks.

The motion came after representatives from the consortium — which includes Beedie Living, Anthem properties, PCI Group, Woodbridge Homes and TransLink, along with several smaller property owners — had presented council with its first formal look at its plans after nearly two years of work with city staff and several rounds of consultations with various stakeholders and the public.

Those plans comprised: a dense, mixed-use neighbourhood of about 3,800 homes in a series of towers ranging from 26 storeys or smaller along St. Johns Street to up to 35 storeys next to the SkyTrain station; more than 400 affordable housing units; a commercial high street along Spring Street; improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure; a public plaza and several green pocket parks; the daylighting of Slaughterhouse/Dallas creek all the way to Murray Street at Rocky Point Park; a pedestrian overpass to the park; and jobs for about 1,400 people, of which more than half could be in the high-paying tech and education sectors.

“The mayor dropped a bomb,” Dilworth said Saturday of Vagramov’s motion, adding that presenting it to the consortium so early in the process would send a message to all developers that their projects could get cut off by council at any time.

But Vagramov said his proposals were non-binding.

“These are some of the starting points I had in mind,” he said, adding later that he doubted the relationship between council and developers is so fickle a series of suggestions would kill such a major project.

Madsen agreed, saying, “Nothing we decide tonight will shut the process down. We’re not dictating anything.”

It took an impassioned plea by Lubik to bridge the divide.

“What I want to hear from my council colleagues is what are we trying to accomplish from this project,” she said, adding the city shouldn’t fear density, especially near SkyTrain, but it should be clear on what kind of density the city wants and what the trade-offs might be to achieve it.

“I feel like there’s a lot of potential here and I don’t want to stop it,” Lubik said.

Vagramov told The Tri-City News he’s disappointed council will now workshop its desires for the master-planned project rather than hash them out in open session.

“I have never supported having development discussions behind closed doors,” he said. “I… hope it produces some favourable feedback for the developer’s draft plan.”

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