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Letter: Port Moody voters need to look 'below the surface' of civic politicians after the Coronation Park debate

I urge voters to look below the surface and decide if this is who they want to represent them in the coming election, writes Port Moody resident Mark Ransom after the Coronation Park vote.
Port Moody Mayor-and-Council
Port Moody city council.

The Editor:

I find it sad that the proposed Coronation Park redevelopment has become a lighting rod for both councillors and residents of Port Moody.

Further, the amount of disinformation bandied about by certain councillors such as Hunter Madsen and letter writer H. Mason is somewhat disturbing.

Mason, in their opening statement, wickedly accuses Stirling Ward as coming across as either “gullible, or on Wesgroup’s payroll.”

Mr. Ward was indeed simply “summing” up the over all facts, whereas  Mason misconstrues Mr. Ward’s words and attempts, like Hunter Madson, to misconstrue facts and paint Wesgroup as the boogyman.

Mason’s second opening statement makes the faulty claim that Mr. Ward was referring to Port Moody’s OCP in his opening statement.

He clearly was not.

He was referring to how long this proposed redevelopment of Coronation Park (being a high-density hub in walking distance of the new SkyTrain station) has been going on. Full stop.

But since Mason makes a point about the OCP update in 2017 from 2013–24, the 2017 Coronation Park Neighbourhood Plan states:

“After extensive consultation with members of the community the new plan includes opportunities for a variety of land uses, including high-rise residential, high-rise mixes use, low-rise residential and park space.”

SkyTrain was championed by Port Moody’s former mayor Joe Trasolini and council, as well as other city councils in the Tri-Cities. It makes sense to have high density in walking distance of SkyTrain for ease of travel (and it fits in with Port Moody’s current climate action plan).

Port Moody was the one that sought to have Coronation Park redeveloped into high density. Not developers. Not residents.

They were the ones who had the sign open for business for developers to redevelop Coronation Park, with, I might add, an existing model of what they were seeking eight to nine years ago, and that model had not changed when Wesgroup got involved back in 2019.

Wesgroup is now the third developer (September 2019) involved after the first two backed out — before, I might add, Port Moody had any inclusionary housing policy plan (Interim Affordable Housing Guidelines 2020/01).

As such, Mason erred again in disparaging Wesgroup. Port Moody’s formal inclusionary housing document came about April 19, 2022.

I’ve listened to most of the council meetings with Wesgroup, and coming from the likes of Hunter Madsen, Steve Milani and Mayor Robert Vagramov, who attended a meeting at a neighbour’s house prior to the last election, where they (most notably Hunter Madsen) claimed they’d be Coronation Park’s “ally in getting Coronation Park redevelopment done.”

And, I might add, out of purgatory.

Throughout, I’ve been astounded by their ignorance, their coming to council meetings with the developer utterly unprepared. Nor have they seemingly grasped the basics of city politics and the development process. I could elaborate but words are limited here. What is more, instead of working with the developer to find solutions they (most notably Madsen) constantly worked against them and put up roadblocks.

They seemingly do not listen to experts as they are consumed by their own tunnel vision.

A few more brief facts of note:

A well-established formula to obtain below-cost housing is to go higher to compensate for the loss of income due to the below-cost housing. This was explained to council pretty much from Day 1.

I quote Wesgroup, “it’s not our job to educate” but they tried anyway.

Council rejected the established formula for below-cost housing. At the third reading Madsen did indeed grandstand by insisting the 15 per cent below-cost housing go back into it at the last minute. It did go in yet he and Milani made it nonsensical as they both still voted against it anyway.

After the first meeting with council, Madsen and other councillors put forth a 26-plus item "shopping list” for Wesgroup’s proposal to go forward. They met it and more, yet councillors such as the above still balked.

As it happens this meeting took place shortly after Coquitlam announced its plans to go high in density with their end of Coronation Park. Madsen was dumbstruck over Coquitlam’s intentions. Where has he been the past year or two? Was his head buried in the sand?

It must have been apparent to anyone given what Coquitlam had been doing the past few years in terms of going high density. Madsen’s closing remarks, after grasping for words at this meeting, was “I’m afraid of making the wrong decision.”

So, he essentially made no decision and put up yet another road block. Is this the kind of councillor you want — one who’s afraid of making decisions?

Both Vagramov and Madsen told Wesgroup that they should break the contract with residents and get a lower selling point from residents.

What the selling point was in 2019 is none of their business. No one was getting rich off it and particularly so after the leap in land prices the past few years.

The sad fact is 50,000 people moved to Metro Vancouver last year. I’d be surprised if it’s not more this year. And Port Moody must do its part.

Port Moody has had negative growth the past few years.

Port Moody has become a desirable place to live and many will not be able to due to the likes of Hunter Madsen’s NIMBY attitude. The fact is housing needs to happen here and in Metro Vancouver, in general.

Properties in Coronation Park have declined due to the simple economic fact of not wanting to put money into it since it will likely be torn down in a few years. Yet due to a jump in B.C. Assessments since 2016 those homeowners who have not lived here 10 years have had to pay exorbitant city taxes. You could be next.

I urge voters to look below the surface and decide if this is who they want to represent them in the coming election. Madsen and his allies mentioned above come across as disingenuous throughout, self-serving and ill informed.

Is this the type of people you want to represent you in the coming election?

- Mark Ransom, Port Moody