Port Moody council wrestles with post-Evergreen vision
By Sarah Payne – The Tri-City News
Published: March 14, 2013 12:00 PM
It’s just a first draft, but Port Moody’s official community plan update had some on council wondering whether it spells the beginning of the end of the city’s small-town character.
The OCP update has been in the works for the better part of a year, since construction on the Evergreen Line was confirmed, with the majority of changes planned for neighbourhoods along the route and around the two stations.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council members praised staff for incorporating wide-ranging public feedback into a cohesive plan but expressed concerns over the potential growth, particularly in Moody Centre.
“I’m not comfortable with this plan…I’m overwhelmed with the amount of density proposed,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth. “But I’m comfortable with it going to public input.”
Coun. Zoe Royer suggested the draft plan, if fully realized, could “render the community unrecognizable.”
Come the summer of 2016, Port Moody will look a lot different with a rapid transit line speeding through the city and stopping at two SkyTrain stations.
But it’s the development potential surrounding the Evergreen Line that could usher in a startling new landscape for PoMo.
Staff have incorporated transit-oriented design (TOD) principles into the draft OCP, concentrating the highest density within a five- to 10-minute walking distance of Evergreen stations, potentially meaning high-rise towers in places like Moody Centre — where the building height has previously been capped at just four storeys — and Coronation Park, an area of single-family homes and low-scale multi-family housing east of Ioco Road.
The areas along the line have been divided into seven sub-areas:
• Gateway — The vision for the end of Barnet Highway includes a mixed-use neighbourhood with building heights of six to 12 storeys, a prominent public art piece and development that complements the nearby heritage conservation area. Glenayre, College Park, Seaview and HarbourHeights would stay largely the same.
• Spring Street Promenade — The area between Douglas Street and Electronic Avenue would be improved through landscaping, lighting, paving options and traffic calming, with potential for public open space projects. Buildings would be limited to three or four storeys.
• Heritage Commercial District — Covering the Moody Centre heritage conservation area (HCA) along Clarke and part of St. Johns streets, the goal would be to preserve existing heritage buildings and ensure sensitive integration with new development and mix commercial with residential to ensure a vital neighbourhood. Buildings of three to four storeys would complement, not mimic, existing heritage structures.
• Murray Street Boulevard — With a new mixed employment land use designation, Murray Street (between Mary Street and Electronic Avenue) would include development of light industrial, commercial, office and residential uses with buildings up to six storeys (on the south side).
• Oceanfront District — Currently the Mill & Timber site, the vision is for a mixed-use neighbourhood with residential, commercial, marina and light industrial areas in low to high rise forms of up to 28 storeys (an earlier draft had suggested just 12 storeys). A special study area, it would require a development plan to ensure waterfront access, links across the CP Rail tracks and historical preservation as part of any proposal for redevelopment.
• Moody Centre — Anchored by the Evergreen station, this area offers the highest concentration of commercial and residential uses in a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. Building forms include low to high rises of up to 20 storeys. In CoronationPark, a mix of heights from three to 30 storeys would be considered.
• Ioco Station — Consideration for mid and high rise buildings in Coronation Park of three to 30 storeys, multi-family housing up to four storeys in the 3300-block of Dewdney Trunk Road, mixed-use developments of up to 12 storeys on the north side and up to six storeys on the south side would be considered. The Honda dealership, Esso station and Onni Suter Brook Parcel D sites could also be up to 30 storeys.
Additional changes in the draft plan include allowing laneway housing in single-family areas, updated transportation policies — including dropping all references to the Murray-Clarke Connector and encouraging child care facilities as part of new mixed-use developments.
Potential land uses for the civic works and former firehall site will be explored and could include residential, institutional, commercial and parks and open space.
Coun. Rick Glumac suggested a motion to designate the sites as civic or parks and open space now, noting with so much density in inlet centre there needed to be more open areas.
The majority of council disagreed, however, saying it would limit the city’s options. Mayor Mike Clay added it made little sense to allow developers to maximize their profit potential on nearby properties while the city sacrificed a prime piece of real estate for those future residents.
It wasn’t just council members who were concerned about the potential for large-scale development.
More than 100 pages of letters from residents were included in the council agenda; some said they looked forward to new developments bringing better amenities but the majority said they wanted to see much smaller-scale projects.
Staff’s presentation included alternate renderings of areas where high-rise towers had been proposed, and what it would look like if limited to about 12 storeys.
Clay cautioned, however, that building higher would mean preserving larger outdoor spaces, plazas and courtyards.
Wendy Swalwell, president of the Moody Centre Community Association, said the group is in favour of “responsible growth” that would maintain the small-town feel of PoMo.
“I’m worried about the massive densification that Moody Centre will have to bear the brunt of,” she said. “Once the development is done and the developers are gone, we have to live with it. I don’t want to see it turned into something we can’t recognize.”
Coun. Bob Elliott added he was “surprised” to see the level of growth in the OCP draft and asked what the population might be in 10 years.
“It probably wouldn’t be 10 years, it might be 50 or 60 years,” said Tim Savoie, director of planning.
If every unit in the draft OCP were to be built over the next several decades, added manager of planning Mary de Paoli, the population could reach 60,000.
Now that council has reviewed the first draft it’s ready to go to public consultation.
A series of drop-in open houses could be scheduled starting as early as next month throughout the city, and residents will be able to give feedback through an online comment form as well.
The complete draft, including area maps, is available on the city’s website at www.portmoody.ca.