Why is Port Moody unwilling to consider an interim use of the former fire hall site?
The potential sale of the lot at the corner of Ioco Road and Murray Street was a major talking point during last fall’s election, which included a curiously worded referendum question asking whether voters would support the sale, partial sale or lease of that land to pay for more park land or other improvements. The majority of voters did not support the question, preferring to keep public lands in public hands.
I voted No to the question as I thought it was important for the city to retain this key piece of land for the future development of public amenities, like a new library, seniors' housing or other important public infrastructure.
But the land remains vacant, as it has been since 2014, surrounded by a construction fence, and containing overgrown grass with surplus city equipment and supplies stored in the corner of the large lot. In my opinion, the area is an unfortunate eyesore in such a central area of our beautiful city.
I recognize that in opting to keep the land, a major reason was to keep the options open for future city uses that won’t likely come to fruition for many years. But I can’t help but wonder why, months after the majority of residents decided to keep the land, the city won’t consider an interim use that would benefit residents and clean up the site.
The consideration of interim uses of the site was ranked third highest of potential items by the Parks and Recreation Commission in its April 2019 meeting to decide its work plan for the year. In fact, later in that same meeting the commission began brainstorming different ideas for the space, which included: a pop-up park or green space with space for bocce or lawn bowling; a botanical or community garden with benches; a location for food trucks, weekend markets or outdoor movies; a beach volleyball court; a small stage for performances; or a space for community groups to showcase their work or cause.
But the consideration of interim uses of the site was removed from the commission’s work plan when it was finally put before council at its June 25 meeting. During the discussion of the plan, Coun. Diana Dilworth appeared to chastise the chair of the commission for even allowing the discussion of an item that was not on its work plan prior to approval by council.
This all makes me wonder why some council members won’t consider any interim use of the land. Is there some benefit to having this central, high-profile area of the city sit vacant and unused? Perhaps some think that the public will support the sale of the land if it sits as a vacant, dilapidated lot for another four years.
I, for one, won’t change my mind about keeping the lands in public hands for the future needs of our growing city but I do hope we that can find some use for it so that it can be enjoyed in the interim.
Matthew Turnell, Port Moody