Monday, February 8, 2010

What is going on in Port Moody? ZERO GROWTH!


Port Moody Official Community Plan (OCP) Meetings Resume

Meeting Type: Committee of the Whole
When: Saturday, February 6, 2010
Where: Inlet Theatre, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody
Time: 9am to Noon

On Saturday, February 6, Port Moody City Council is holding a Committee of the Whole meeting to continue their review of the draft Official Community Plan (OCP). The public is welcome to attend and observe the discussion.

More information on the OCP update process, as well as the January 2010 revised version of the OCP, is available at www.cityofportmoody.com/ocp

For further information, please contact Mary De Paoli, Planner, at mary.depaoli@cityofportmoody.com or 604-469-4702.


As the Planning and Development consultant to Imperial Oil on the future of its 650 acre IOCO Refinery Property, I decided to give up my usual Saturday morning winter round of golf to listen to the discussion on future planning directions in Port Moody. While I did not expect the IOCO Property to be a subject for discussion, boy was I wrong.

For those of you who have not been to Port Moody for a while, it has changed. There is an impressive City Hall across the street from Bosa's impressive Newport Village. Onni has transformed the skyline with some very big buildings, (some are too big for my liking) but they have added a new vitality to the area. There is an attractive new waterfront park development and redevelopment along St. John Street. The former IPSCO Steel property has been transformed into Klahani, a very attractive planned community by Polygon.

For the past couple of years, the Planning Department had been working on a revised OCP and it was quite an impressive document, with lots of pictures and good ideas...almost a modern day encyclopedia of current planning theory about good planning, sustainable development, infill housing, etc. etc.

So what happened, and why this post?

The problem is what hasn't happened. While the North East Sector has been promised a SkyTrain extension for years, it has not materialized. Instead, the line was built to Richmond and the Airport, and now attention is being focused on the future Broadway Line. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Mayor Trasolini felt that he was not getting any respect, especially from the people making the decisions.

So recently he and his Council decided there should be zero or minimal residential growth in Port Moody until the Provincial Government committed to the Evergreen Line and the Murray-Clarke Connector. To ensure this happened, he instructed the Planning Department to further revise the Official Community Plan to essentially remove those provisions that would allow additional residential growth, even sustainable new development. In January, a revised OCP was issued, but from my reading, it did not seem to stop further growth until the Evergreen Line and the much desired Murray-Clarke Connector was approved.

A presentation on the revised document was scheduled for Saturday morning. I arrived a few minutes late, only to discover that the attendance was sparse, to put it mildly, and Council was about to discuss only those Chapters of the OCP that did not in any way insinuate more residential growth. And so a nice discussion ensued regarding the Environment, and Parks and Community Infrastructure...

(Although I must share that one Council member was worried that the proposal to eliminate unnecessary idling might mean people would have to turn off their car engines at stoplights!)

I assumed we would then move onto the 'growth chapters' but no...the Mayor was about to end the meeting when the topic of 'Special Study Areas' came up. These are larger sites, both publicly and privately owned, that are identified in the OCP as requiring longer term comprehensive planning before any zoning can be approved allowing new mixed use developments. The former IOCO Refinery has been designated as a Special Study Area for years.

Well, before any of the 20 or so remaining members of the audience could appreciate what was happening, a motion was put forward that all the Special Study Areas should be removed from the OCP! Yes, removed; right there and then.

There was no suggestion that perhaps the OCP should be modified to say that planning could continue in Special Study Areas but no zoning approvals should be granted until new transportation infrastructure was committed....No. They were simply removed.

In the case of the IOCO lands, Council did not remove the extensive section in the Heritage Chapter which addresses the heritage restoration of the Historic Townsite. This is something many Port Moody residents look forward to. No, that remained. Unfortunately, no one was given the opportunity to point out that the desired Heritage Restoration will never happen until there are planning approvals for other portions of the other lands, some of which have been successfully remediated in recent years.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Mayor appeared to realize that perhaps he had essentially thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and shut down not only all residential growth but also potential new non-residential development as well. So he made a statement to the effect that Council was still encouraging non-residential development and its related economic development to take place. Unfortunately, the Mayor and Council have obviously not been paying attention to the discussions taking place in Vancouver and elsewhere in the region that clearly demonstrate that residential development is often necessary to 'subsidize' commercial development. Without one, you won't get the other.

As the meeting ended, like performers at a concert, the Mayor, Councillors and staff went off through their own door, thus removing any opportunity for the few remaining dumbfounded members of the audience to buttonhole them. So we gathered in the sunny lobby, wondering what really had just happened. Someone commented how sad it was that no members of the media were there to record the event.

I drove home thinking that Port Moody Council might have just made a terrible mistake. While I completely understand its frustration over the lack of decisions on SkyTrain and the Murray-Clarke Connector, I think it was wrong to close the door on planning for future growth and planning for the 'Special Study Areas' without any discussion of the consequences. Similarly, Council should have allowed some representation from the land owners, many of whom pay very significant property taxes to the city, before taking such a position.

While I am sure the Mayor and Council would like these affected owners and other large and small land owners to lobby the Province and Translink on their behalf, time will tell if this happens. Time will also tell if Port Moody property taxes have to increase to offset the loss in revenues from new development applications and approvals, and zero to minimal growth.

I will end with a comment from one local resident standing in the lobby who was hoping the OCP revisions would encourage the subdivision of larger single family lots to accommodate 2 or 3 smaller, more affordable infill homes. He left the building discouraged that while he can build a 7,000 foot home on the property, Council had just closed the door on precisely the kind of development that he thought Port Moody really needs.

Ironically, earlier in the meeting, the Councillors were lamenting the construction of larger single family homes that seemed out of character with their neighbourhoods. A special discussion on this will take place in two meetings from now.

Hopefully someone will point out the folly of Council's decisions this past Saturday morning in this regard.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris said...

I for one am proud of Port Moody for taking a stand. Their shouldn't be any residential growth in the Lower Mainland, unless it can be done sustainably - which means public transit is a must. Something needs to be done to pressure the government to finally build the Evergreen Line.

P.S. you might want to turn off anonymous comments.

Jeannie said...

When the City decided to take such drastic action what was their plan to replace the lost revenues to City coffers?

Perhaps tolls booths at each end of the City?

BTW, did I miss an announcement from the Province that the Evergreen has now been cancelled?

Andrew said...

Michael,

Isn't there a Local Government Act’s requirement for OCP to have Green House Gas target and reduction strategies, & how does zero growth/lack of density assist Port Moody in meeting more stringent G.H.G. emission standards?

Can Port Moody avoid meeting its regional growth targets? If so, what penalties are involved?

Michael said...

Yes, Port Moody and other municipalities do have to establish green house gas emission targets and this was discussed. We should ask staff and council whether the proposed revisions to the OCP will compromise these efforts

michael geller said...

And to Jeannie,Translink has not 'cancelled' the Evergreen Line...I understand they have completed the land acquisitions and planning is progressing. But there has not been the full commitment to funding that the Mayor and Council are seeking.

As an aside, I would welcome comments from Port Moody residents on the desirability of the Murray-Clarke Connector. Someone called me to say it's essentially a new highway running along the waterfront, and not in keeping with the times. Any thoughts?

Port Moody said...

I'm a port moody resident. For those who are commuting in or out of Port Moody, the proposed Clarke overpass would eliminate a bottleneck for commuters: in that way, it would be much appreciated. It would definitely channel MUCH more traffic along this back road, and yes, it would resemble an additional chunk of Barnet Highway. It's proposed to run through what's now industrial waterfront land before it connects to Murray. A lot of traffic that currently runs through St. John's st will be redirected onto this connector. Good or bad? Commuters will say good. Residents of the area may have a different view, and efforts to protect waterfront access in this area will be important.

Kevin Key - KeyPlan said...

There must be more to this story. Surely, drastically curtailing housing will very likely not achieve anything positive, and could cause several dire effects, not only to the recovery to a healthy market in those neighborhoods, but to an industry of people. An industry reeling from a recession.

Over the next quarter century, that industry will need to incessantly provide 50 new housing units ~each business day~ in the Metro area.

If one area decides to bow out, that will likely mean demand will be directed elsewhere; to areas that may grow enough momentum to justify transit investment.

Locking in low densities is not the ticket to transit.

Andrew said...

Michael,

I was unable to attend Sat.'s meeting but have received updates from others - thanks for filling in some of the blanks.

This "Zero Growth" strategy is exactly what Mayor Trasolini wants - to anger the development community enough to take up Port Moody's fight with the Province.

However, as a form of blackmail, this will only further frustrate Campbell and the Liberals. It will likely backfire:

a) Campbell already has no patience for Trasolini and this will just make tensions worse

b) Just which developers does Trasolini think will catch the Province's attention? Onni, Polygon and Bosa have essentially finished their projects in P.M.

c) With new tax sources drying up, Port Moody will be forced to cut spending (already happening to community associations) and raise existing residential taxes

d) Having successfully branded Port Moody as "closed to business", developers will have no choice but to look elsewhere

e) With development occuring elsewhere, Port Moody will still be forced to deal with growing congestion as a traffic "choke point" for the region, regardless of its stance on future growth

f) Affordability in PM (supposedly a major issue with Council) will be further eroded with zero growth, and;

f) Evergreen Line Co. continues to look to Port Moody to guide its alignment/station decisions. "Zero Growth" is tantamount to Port Moody shooting itself in the foot.

I agree with Kevin - locking in zero growth will not bring transit and will only hurt Port Moody over the long-term.

michael geller said...

Andrew, you make some very good points. Let's hope that the Mayor, Council and staff take the time to review your comments and reconsider how best to proceed. I do not want to be critical of this Council; on the contrary, I want to work with the city, and know that many other land owners and property developers do too.

While I don't have the political experience of the Mayor and Council, I like to think that a more collaborative approach is a better way to proceed. The larger projects that were identified as Special Study Areas will take many years to plan, and I hope Council will direct staff to encourage this planning work to occur now, while we all press the senior governments for the desired transit improvements.

voony said...

At the risk to be on the odd side:
I am of the opinion we shouldn't build the evergreen line, because from a business viewpoint, it doesn't make sense considering the poor ridership, which can't help the financial state of Translink.

I understand that a new transit line can shape growth, but there is still plenty of growth to shape along existing lines, and add another branch will only divert growth of one corridor to another (so basically no gain game for Translink).

The skytrain should go to PM only when the ridership will be able to sustain this solution (or if the agency has the mean to develop itself the area like in Hong Kong). It seems it is far to be the case...

I believe also poor ridership toward PM is also due to the fact that at the other end of the M-line, there is no room to accommodate rider: overcrowded Expo line and 99B line, and money should be invested to fix this issue first before trying to draw more rider on the system by heavy investment.

I find it curious this posture "as long as we don't have a freeway, we will stay a village", when the reverse logic should prevail:
"bring us the business case, and we will built it to you"

I didn't know that this Trasolini was also wanting to build a freeway along a waterfront: I was thinking it was a dead idea of the last century.

Anonymous said...

The Editor,
Re. "PoMo nixes Henry residential project" (The Tri-City News, Dec. 11).

Is Port Moody closed for business? I ask this because, as a longtime resident and business owner in Moody Centre, a past president of the Moody Centre Business Association and a professional traffic engineer, I was completely dismayed by what I witnessed at the Dec. 8 Port Moody council meeting.

At this meeting, three councillors voted in favour of the proposing housing development on Henry Street but the mayor and two remaining councillors (two others were absent) voted against it, resulting in a tie and defeat of the motion. The stated reason for voting against the development was a lack of funding for the Evergreen Line and Murray-Clarke connector projects.

At the public hearing, I observed six members of the public speak, of whom five were residents of the neighbouring property and opposed to the development. What the media failed to report was that more than 70 residents and businesses submitted letters to city hall in favour of the proposed development. The Moody Centre Community Association was also in support of this development. Thus, there was much more support from the community and the attending councillors for this development than reported.

But what concerns me most is the message that this decision sends — that Port Moody is closed for business until the funding issue with TransLink is resolved.

I do not believe for one second that TransLink is going to lose sleep over council’s decision to turn down yet another housing project in Port Moody. TransLink has much bigger issues to deal with that will take some time to resolve. The demand for these housing projects will simply shift to neighbouring communities, where they will be built, generate much-needed jobs and tax revenue, and then many of those new residents will likely drive through Port Moody as part of their commute.

I fail to see how Port Moody wins with this posturing of no growth.

My final concern is that these applications are being permitted to proceed to third reading before being overturned by council for non-technical reasons. If the city’s position is a firm “no” to all new housing developments until the Evergreen Line and Murray-Clarke connector funding issues are resolved, then this should be made explicitly clear to developers at the pre-application stage.

In my opinion, the decision by council Dec. 8 sent a discomforting message that Port Moody is closed for business.

Jan O. Voss, Port Moody

http://www.bclocalnews.com/tri_city_maple_ridge/tricitynews/opinion/letters/79997162.html

Anonymous said...

Port Moody’s posturing over “zero growth” until transit is in place will do nothing to build the Evergreen Line any faster, and will instead lead only to an exit of investment and future tax dollars to neighbouring municipalities, while doing nothing to ease local traffic congestion.

If anything, these actions further erode Port Moody’s reputation as a location for business investment, and may in fact undermine any bargaining position the Municipality might have on the Evergreen Line - particularly with respect to securing the Murray Clarke Connector in conjunction with a western Moody Centre station.

Evergreen Line prerequisites for station location and track alignment decisions remain as follows: 1) the ability to shape land use; 2) the potential for increased ridership; 3) the potential to support increased density, and; 4) issues of affordability. To this end, the Evergreen Line officials will be looking to the City of Port Moody to guide their investment decisions for the Evergreen Line. Therefore, I must ask: what signals are we sending when a responsible and well-planned project (such as the recent Henry St. proposal), which is in relative proximity to future rapid transit improvements and enjoys strong support among community members and organizations, is turned down at 3rd reading, and before the policy was even in place?

Despite Port Moody Council’s stated support for the inclusion of a western Moody Centre station, the City continues to drag its feet when it comes to representing the interests of the community, who have repeatedly demonstrated strong support.

With construction costs reported by statscan as having fallen 18% year-over-year, and given the Province’s poor track record as being the lowest performer in terms of utilizing the Federal Government’s Economic Action Plan infrastructure dollars, the timing could not be better to see construction on the Evergreen Line beginning immediately (where's our MLA's, Iain Black and Harry Bloy?). That said, our community needs to have the system planned properly and to this end, the City of Port Moody shouldn’t expect to see “shovels in the ground” in order to give its support to the Evergreen Line.

This remains a collaborative process and in order for the City of Port Moody to have the greatest impact, it should begin by actually collaborating with the Evergreen Line, and local commerce and residents, who all seem to want the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Port Moody Official Community Plan (OCP) Meetings Resume
Meeting Type: Committee of the Whole
When: Saturday, March 13, 2010
Where: Inlet Theatre, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody
Time: 9am to Noon

On Saturday, March 13, Port Moody City Council is holding a Committee of the Whole meeting to continue their review of the draft Official Community Plan (OCP). The public is welcome to attend and observe the discussion.

The meeting will also air on Shaw Cable on Sunday, March 14 at 9am.

More information on the OCP update process, as well as the January 2010 revised version of the OCP, is available at www.cityofportmoody.com/ocp

For further information, please contact Mary De Paoli, Planner, at mary.depaoli@cityofportmoody.com or 604-469-4702.

Michael Geller said...

This comment was incorrectly posted on another item....
Yvonne of the Yukon said...

Exellent comments on what has turned out to be confusing and contradictory changes to the OCP. I sat through the Sat am meeting and could not believe they were making such signicant changes in an ad hoc manner. I very much support the infill developments that we proposed working on the Affordable Housing Committee. That has now been lost along with any attempt at reasonble development in Port Moody.
Yvonne Harris Former land use planner in Yukon and Prince George

February 8, 2010 5:36 PM

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable what is going on!

http://www.thev3h.com/2010/06/port-moody-council-fuming-over-murray-clarke-connector/