Trouble in paradise? Wild West, Port Moody style

Metro Vancouver (also known as GVRD, Greater Vancouver Regional District) has filed a legal petition declaring Port Moody’s newly adopted OCP is invalid as it does not meet the necessary statutory content. Until it does meet the requirements, it is not in force and effect.

There are many questions.

Timeline — significant dates, legal challenge

April 22, 2014: OCP public hearing, and 3rd reading by council.

July 11, 2014:  GVRD denies Port Moody’s request for zoning changes to two parcels zoned industrial. (Port Moody requested a zoning change to “General Urban” for both.)

July 22, 2014: Port Moody council considers in a public meeting whether or not to revise the OCP to comply, or adopt without GVRD approval. Discussion concluded with a decision to consult with GVRD to look at possible remedies without having to rescind 3rd reading and hold another public hearing.

October 14, 2014:  Port Moody council adopts OCP in a 5:2 vote, with Mayor Clay declaring “no new information that I’m aware of that’s been brought to council since the OCP has gone through public hearing” (see partial transcript below). Due to Port Moody’s rules, no public input is allowed at council meetings during election campaigns.

October 24, 2014: GVRD board votes in an “in-camera” (not public) meeting to file a legal challenge. Port Moody was not part of the published agenda. Mayor Clay attended the meeting (minutes here), but would have excused himself from the Port Moody discussion (and therefore know of the discussion taking place).

November 13, 2014: Legal challenge formally filed, almost three weeks after the GVRD decision, which is an unusual delay.
Copy of petition here:
Metro Vancouver (GVRD) v PoMo-OCP

November 15, 2014: Municipal elections in British Columbia.

November 21, 2014: News story filed by Tri-Cities Now (see below).


Why did Port Moody council vote to adopt the OCP:

  • when significant new information had come up — GVRD’s objection to the OCP in July — after the public hearing and 3rd reading in April
  • knowing it was non-compliant with the GVRD board and subject to a legal challenge
  • one month away from a municipal election
  • when no public input was allowed

Why was GVRD’s decision not made public in a timely manner, with information unavailable during the election campaign cycle?

Why would council push ahead with its decision when it could have waited a little longer until after the municipal elections?

Why would council put taxpayer dollars at risk in this way? (The estimated cost of rescinding 3rd reading and holding another public hearing was estimated at $5,000, whereas the legal bills for this dispute could be much higher, such as the $250K plus spent to-date on the OCP dispute between the Township of Langley and the GVRD.)

In the news story below, Mayor Clay says, “We knew it was going to happen. It’s happening. That’s fine. That’s how these things play out.” He also indicated the city knew when it passed the OCP it was not compliant with the regional context statement.

Then why did council (5 out of 7) approve the OCP on October 14, 2014?


Metro tussles with city over OCP Regional Government Files Court Petition Over Port Moody Document
Jeremy Deutsch / Tri-Cities Now
November 21, 2014 12:00 AM

While Port Moody’s newly minted official community plan (OCP) may have been a done deal for local politicians, another level of government is taking issue with at least part of the document.

Last week, Metro Vancouver (identified as the Greater Vancouver Regional District in court documents), filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court arguing Port Moody’s OCP is invalid and does not meet the necessary statutory guidelines.

According to court documents filed last week, the GVRD claims the new OCP bylaw passed on Oct. 14 contains no regional context statement accepted by the regional district, as required under the Local Government Act.

The regional district argued the city has enacted a new regional context statement in the OCP that has never been agreed to or accepted by the GVRD.

Officials with Metro Vancouver told the Tri-Cities NOW they did not want to discuss the petition since the issue is before the courts.

But Port Moody Mike Clay said the city knew when it passed the OCP it was not compliant with the regional context statement, specifically related to two areas, the designation for the Mill and Timber site and the old Andres Winery.”

To me, it’s just process,” he said of the court petition.

“We knew it was going to happen. It’s happening. That’s fine. That’s how these things play out.”

The new OCP has the Mill and Timber site designated as oceanfront district — it was formerly industrial with a special study designation — while the Andres site is designated mixed use.

The site was also formerly designated industrial.

In the case of Mill and Timber, Metro Vancouver wants the city to change the designation from industrial to general urban use because of its designation in the city’s OCP.

Clay said the city has no plans to make any changes at the Mill and Timber site, but the oceanfront district designation was intended to let residents know the long-term vision.

He suggested any changes to the site would involve public consultation and a larger process.

The mayor noted the city has 21 days to respond to the petition, but suggested the two sides will likely meet in January, once a new Metro Vancouver board is in place, to try and come to some kind of agreement.

He said council could approve an amendment that would put the site back in the industrial designation, a move he would prefer rather than going the legal route of fighting the regional district over the issue.

However, he didn’t want to presuppose what the newly elected council would want to consider. Coun. Rick Glumac said he preferred all along to make the appropriate amendments before passing the OCP, adding now the city is dealing with the legal side of the issue, which he called “risky.”

While he argued the situation could have been handled differently, he agreed a court battle is not the way to resolve the dispute.

“It seems to me this requires some discussion with Metro. It would have been better to go into it with a collaborative approach rather than a confrontational one,” he said, adding the city needs to get to the table with Metro Vancouver to come up with a solution.


Partial transcript, adoption of OCP October 14, 2014
Council meeting
4:36 minutes into section 7

ZR: strongly urge council to defer this motion … will greatly impact new council … been in the news, conflict between Township of Langley … without Metro Vancouver [MV] approval … ultimately they ended up in court … to-date spent $250K … agreed to regional growth strategy … must be consistent with RGS … if we adopt this OCP now the very likely and almost certain future is that it [could start] a legal battle with MV. … by adopting we will have breached that agreement … fundamentally important that council has to consider. If we chip away at the RGS … if we get into a situation … Township of Langley … public good in all of this … strongly urge council colleagues to simply defer … can bring forward in new year …

RG: … support deferral … OCP has no limits on density … OCP will not preserve small-town feel … give developers opportunity to come forward with proposals that may be completely out of character with community … 2nd reason … this process has been suspended for 6 months, sitting at 3rd reading (April 22) and in that time I believe we’ve received new information as a council. … MV doesn’t accept our OCP … conflicts with RGS … that is new information. On July 22 there were presentations to council from members of the public and people from Andres and I believe from Mill and Timber giving us information … legal precedents that if our council receives new information after 3rd reading, then the whole bylaw is subject to legal challenge and why would we want to put ourselves into that risky position at this stage … rescind 3rd reading and go back to public input, allow people to speak to the new information presented and not risk litigation in the future. … hope other councillors will consider at least the 2nd reason …

DD: … long-term plan for growth … 30 year visionary plan … [lots of consultation] … assured and re-assured by the professional expertise of our staff who’ve indicated that … numbers related to density are appropriately dealt with in the zoning bylaw which will be completed once our OCP is done. … after years of consultation and debate … comfortable supporting and endorsing the OCP. I believe three years ago during the election we were all given a mandate to continue the development of the OCP … endorsing the OCP as presented tonight.

GN: Agree with much of what Cllr Dilworth just said, so only point … we were elected 3 years ago … spent years discussing this particular OCP … feel public has a right to know how this council feels about it. To defer this and bring it to a future council and put it in the hands of people who haven’t gone through the process is I think unfair to them as well as to residents of Port Moody. So I want to make it clear I would like to see this matter decided by this council.

BE: … lot of backlash [with Newport Village] and … now one of the jewels of our city … would never do anything to harm this city … and I’m quite happy with this OCP … [result of Skytrain] have to build accordingly … council can turn [proposals] down … have to move forward … elected to serve 35,000 people, not 35 or 50 or 55 … [so] approving this.

RS: … have to move forward, I know there’s a bunch of you out there with your signs and you don’t want this to go forward but I’ve talked to a lot of people who do want it to go forward … can’t please all of the people all of the time, but can certainly please some of the people especially the majority … been advised by council and staff that [putting numbers into OCP] could set us up for litigation so you haven’t heard that but I’ve certainly heard that on more than one occasion. So as long as our bylaws address the numbers I’m not concerned that they’re not in the OCP. … need to more forward.

MC: Councillor Royer, I see you’ve got your light on, you’ve spoken before, are you speaking to clarify something you’ve said previously?

ZR: I have in front of me the Local Government Act and thought I could add something to the conversation.

MC: I think everybody here is aware of the LGA. You’re not clarifying something you’ve said previously?

ZR: I’d just like to speak further to the motion. [microphone turned off]

RG: I just have a question in regard to something that was stated, that we’ve been advised by staff that numbers shouldn’t be in the OCP. Could I get clarification from staff on whether we’ve ever been advised we shouldn’t put numbers in the OCP.


MC: Staff doesn’t clarify everything that every councillor says; that’s her opinion and she’s entitled to it just as you’re entitled to yours.

RG: It’s not an opinion, I’m looking for fact, want to know what staff has to say about whether numbers should be in the OCP or not.

James Stiver [staff]: … [new on staff, getting up to speed]

ZR: … to that point, actually stated in the LGA that … an OCP must include statements and map designations to do with the location, amount, type of density of residential development … by neighbourhood [microphone turned off]

MC: Thank you, Mr. Stiver, … would you clarify if the OCP meets that requirement?

JS: … believe as the OCP is drafted now it deals with density through different land use categories.

ZR: … But it also says in the LGA that we have to have the location, amount and type of proposed commercial, recreational and public utility land uses, that we need to have location and proposed schools and parks that will fit a growing population. And if we expect to go from … 15,000 people that is written into our plan we haven’t included any new space for parks or schools. Where are people going to go? It is a bedroom community plan and … jobs are not reflected in this plan.

MC: … ask again Mr. Stiver do you agreed that our OCP meets the requirements of an OCP?

JS: … to the best of my knowledge through reviewing the LGA and OCP … believe it meets the requirements …

MC: OK, I think everybody’s had a kick at the can; going to make one comment in that whether we’ve received new information on our OCP I’ve personally gone through very carefully. We had some commentary about the regional growth strategy amendments at our July 22 meeting but they weren’t directly any change to our OCP. We were all aware of the land use designations of the Andres site and the Mill and Timber site when we put them in our OCP. In fact I voted against the Andres one for that reason and I mentioned that to council that likely Metro would reject it and council has chosen to go that route on it. And so there’s no new information that I’m aware of that’s been brought to council since the OCP has gone through public hearing, and the OCP hasn’t changed since its gone through public hearing. So with that I’ll agree with the other comments that’ve been made already and I’ll call the question. All those in favour? And opposed? And it’s carried in favour with Councillors Glumac and Royer opposed.

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5 Responses to Trouble in paradise? Wild West, Port Moody style

  1. Dave says:

    Is mayor Clay’s “no new information” verbal report to council on October 14th an acknowledgement that there had been no discussions with Metro Van since July? That would be irresponsible enough. Or is his statement something less than completely honest?

  2. Mary Anne Cooper says:

    Municipal law states that when the OCP is unresolved an arbitrator can be appointed and public involved. A potential decision could be rejection of the new OCP, reinstatement of the old OCP as having unfinished objectives. Why, then, does this involve litigation? Confrontation will not resolve the basic issue as each contender firmly adhers to as their agenda rather than give-and-take in a collaborative fashion. Port Moody council has a primary responsibility for shaping the long-term (future) development and character of the city that is unique, while arbitrating secondarily as partners in the over-all wider community directions/developing. I vote for arbitration not litigation or any form of “giving in” or backing out.

  3. Zoe Royer says:

    Everyone on Port Moody Council was fully aware prior to adoption of the OCP, that Metro Van would likely seek legal action. Council was also aware, in-advance, that if the OCP were adopted in Oct 14, that it would be at a time when 1) public input was suspended 2) MV would ltake approx 30 days to respond and 3) news / backlash would happen just after the election. In the transcript above, it is important to note that Mayor Clay shut off my microphone three times during the OCP discussion. I spoke to what he did at my only opportunity, at the very end of the Council meeting during Council Verbal Reports.

  4. Zoe Royer says:

    On Oct 14, knowing what would happen if the majority of Port Moidy Council were to adopt the OCP, I urged Council to defer until we had resolved the OCP flaws through collaboration with Metro Vancouver. Because, as I said at the time; collaboration is always better than litigation. I considered adoption of the OCP, costly, cavalier and in contempt of the agreement Port Moody signed on to as a member city of the Region.

  5. Zoe Royer says:

    I spoke often about the legalities should Port Moody Council adopt the OCP without the support of the Metro Vancouver Board. In Council Chambers at public meetings pre-adoption July and October. In three All-Candidates debates and in a personal video on my website. In the televised Chamber of Commerce All-Candidates Debate of Nov. 3, I talked about the legal implications and the need for Port Moody Council to work collaboratively (at time marker 7:00):

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