Blast from the past — a few development and OCP stories

City wants feedback on housing
For many Port Moody residents, the city is already too expensive for their kids

by Simone Blais, Coquitlam NOW
Friday, April 30, 2010

St George St-2010 NOW photo

CREDIT: Paul vanPeenen, Coquitlam NOW

 
Port Moody already has a mix of housing types, but the city wants residents’ input on where to go from here.

What will the City of Port Moody look like in 20 years?

The face of Port Moody has changed considerably since the city drafted its last official community plan (OCP), which laid out how land would be used in the future and where the city would grow. Since 2001, the city has grown to include 10,125 dwelling units from 8,540 — an 18.5-per-cent increase that overshadows other cities in Metro Vancouver.

Almost a decade later, the city is encouraging residents to provide last-minute input on the new OCP before making final changes to be approved by council in either late May or early June, when it will be reviewed by Metro Vancouver officials this summer.

There’s a marked shift in the planning document from previous years, in that the OCP not only calls for zero to minimal growth — since the city made such strides in densifying construction during the last decade — but shines a spotlight on the increased need for housing affordability.

Port Moody policy planner Mary De Paoli said the city conducted an affordable housing strategy in 2009 as part of the OCP review, to talk to residents about the cost of housing — which had been top of mind for some.

“A lot of longtime Port Moody residents whose children have grown up here, they were sad in many ways, because their children that have their own families are unable to purchase housing here and in some ways maintain the same kind of lifestyle they had growing up,” De Paoli said. “That made them sad that their children or grandchildren couldn’t be close by or had to go out east where prices were more reasonable, or maybe had to seek a different type of housing form.”

The plan notes that Port Moody was partially feeling the net effect experienced throughout Metro Vancouver, which has become “the country’s most expensive place to buy or rent housing, compared to all other urban areas.”

While it’s impossible to predict the future of the market, the plan assumed housing price increases would continue due to B.C.’s strong economy, migration and shortage of land. This could result in people who would normally buy choosing to rent instead, leading to low rental vacancy rates — a demand that could translate into high rents.

Households at the lower end of the income spectrum are most affected by these factors, the plan found. While Port Moody residents are typically better off than Metro Vancouver residents as a whole, the 2006 census indicates that 22 per cent of owners (1,760 households) and 27 per cent of renters in the city spent more than 30 per cent of their gross income on shelter. Of these people, 425 owners (25 per cent) and 485 renters (85 per cent) were spending at least half of their pre-tax income on housing.

Those numbers are significant, the OCP explains, because the 50-per-cent mark is the level at which families are considered in core housing need and at risk of homelessness. Since 2001, those figures have increased: that year only 365 households, or four per cent, were at risk of homelessness.

According to the 2006 census, 21 per cent of Port Moody households live in rented housing — much lower than the 35-per-cent average in Metro Vancouver.

“In Port Moody we do have some stable rental housing, and we’re probably seeing more demand for it now given how the market’s going and how much more difficult it is for people to buy their own home,” De Paoli said.

“Part of what came out of this study was the fear that we would lose some of the rental stock that we did have as the market continued to put pressures on what we did have for redevelopment, possibly as these rental units get older.”

The city has 364 known secondary suites, and officials estimate the actual number could be double — meaning 10 to 20 per cent of Port Moody single-family homes have a secondary suite.

To bridge the affordability divide, new development should build density into the city — but not necessarily through additional condo tower projects, the kind of density that marked most of the 1990s and 2000s.

“In some ways we did hear they [residents] want to see a little bit of a slowdown in growth,” De Paoli said, adding that external forces have changed since the city created its last OCP and affordable housing strategy.

“The market had changed significantly, and the housing mix was changing a lot too in the city. It was a good opportunity to take stock of what kind of housing we did have, what some of the needs might be going into the future,” De Paoli said.

Developers won’t be bringing towers into the Moody Centre area anytime soon, but the city will be reviewing how to maintain the character and scale of the area, while offering a range of housing choices.

“That area is perhaps more in transition than other residential areas, given the age of the housing stock,” De Paoli said.

For creative solutions, the city looked west to Vancouver for backyard cottage concepts off lanes, also known as granny flats or mew housing.

“Laneway housing was something that was already on people’s minds because the discussion was already taking place in Vancouver,” De Paoli said. “The feedback was more related to how do we use a form like laneway housing to encourage the retention of some of the existing residential housing? Then we can add some additional density and perhaps provide mortgage helpers.”

Laneway housing is not a panacea, though.

De Paoli said Vancouver is working through the growing pains of the new housing form as some residents jumped on board — only to find servicing requirements more expensive than originally thought.

“We would have to ensure there’s proper servicing and that it’s in an area that’s safe, and that access is good,” De Paoli said of future Port Moody implementation.

“It’s also up to the individual property owner to decide if this is something they want to engage in. Some feedback I’ve heard [is that] some property owners feel it may not be an affordable option. The rent they’d have to charge wouldn’t necessarily make it affordable, so that’s not necessarily the reason they would do it.”

So how to build new affordable housing when it may not seem, at first blush, to be incredibly profitable?

De Paoli said the city is open to requiring affordable housing as a condition of the sale of city land, exploring an affordable housing land bank, encouraging partnerships and offering density bonuses to developers willing to take on creative and affordable projects.

The OCP recommends allowing for an increase up to 15 per cent for innovative forms of housing or assisted living. Co-housing is being explored as one of those forms. This housing typically comprises private homes with full kitchens supplemented by extensive common facilities, creating an “intentional community,” as De Paoli explained it. While some operate under a co-operative structure, others are strata that also offer shared services like childcare facilities.

“There’s a different intention behind that, getting people to interact more with their neighbours. It’s a philosophy in some ways, in that it’s creating a kind of community within that,” De Paoli said.

“There’s economic and environmental benefits and they share resources and space and items. The policy looks at allowing the full range of housing opportunities and leaving that open so that, as opportunities come up, we’re able to facilitate those.”

De Paoli said the city is still accepting input and feedback on the OCP. To contribute, visit the city’s website at http://www.cityofportmoody.com and, under “Services,” click on the section for the planning department. Click the link called “Official Community Plan — April 2010 Update,” then click on the blue hyperlink for the online comment form. Residents have until May 10 to respond.

“We’re hoping to get as much feedback as we can,” De Paoli said, “so we can tweak whatever we need to and get it moving forward.”

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Why should PoMo pay?, mayor asks

A demand that developers buck up for a third Evergreen Line station to the tune of $20 million is unacceptable and would result in a forest of towers in Port Moody’s west end, warns the city’s mayor.

By Diane Strandberg – The Tri-City News
Published: August 12, 2010

A demand that developers buck up for a third Evergreen Line station to the tune of $20 million is unacceptable and would result in a forest of towers in Port Moody’s west end, warns the city’s mayor.

Joe Trasolini said he learned from a story last month in The Tri-City News that a third station in the western part of the city would have to be paid for with developers’ dollars, and he said the requirement is a new hurdle Tri-Cities residents shouldn’t have to jump.

“What we are talking about is moving the goal post,” Trasolini told The News. “The residents of the northeast sector have been funding stations all throughout the Lower Mainland. All of a sudden, the Ministry of Transportation is demanding the developer has to pay for the station.”

This is not the first time developers have been asked to contribute to a rapid transit station. That’s how the city of Vancouver got the Olympic Village Station added to the Canada Line, according to Evergreen Line project director Dave Duncan, who said in an earlier interview that PoMo can get a third station on the west end if it puts together a land use plan for increasing density by the end of this year and uses developers’ dollars to pay for it.

But Trasolini said the density required to pay for the third station is more than the area could handle and would mean adding 16,000 more people on the west side of the city and building 16 towers — the equivalent of all the buildings in Suter Brook, Klahanie and NewPort Village combined plus four more.

With the city’s population now roughly 32,000, “Port Moody would have to grow more than 50% to grow $20 million, then we’d have to fork over the full 20 million to pay for the station,” said Trasolini, who is concerned the city would have to forego money it usually gets from development that pays for roads and amenities such as parks. Noting that Inlet Centre development contributed $12 million toward city amenities, Trasolini said putting those dollars instead toward a rapid transit station would be both costly and unfair.

“My beef is with the fact that the people that have the political clout in building the Evergreen Line are now saying… notwithstanding all the other stations on the other lines, we’re going to deal with this one differently,” he said.

He plans to take the issue up with his fellow councillors at an Aug. 26 meeting set to examine the Evergreen Line’s environmental assessment review, which is currently up for public comment. He hopes to convince council to send a letter to Transportation Minister Shirley Bond and use official channels to clarify the issue. The Aug. 26 meeting will be held in the theatre at Inlet Centre at 4:30 p.m.

Construction for the Evergreen Line is supposed to start in early 2011, with an opening date late in 2014. Plans call for six stations with the potential of a further two, one in Port Moody and one in Coquitlam, if density and $20 million can be generated to pay for each.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

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Port Moody residents aren’t being heard on development issues
Many residents don’t believe they’re opinions on development are heard at Port Moody city hall, says the letter writer.
Tri-City News, August 23, 2009

The Editor,

Re. “Port Moody not listening to public opinion on towers”

I read the letter from Claire Cummings on your website regarding Port Moody’s official community plan process. I think it reflects the feelings of many Port Moody residents who participated since 2006 in workshops and other methods of consultation to provide input into the new OCP.

Bottom line: We’re cynical and sceptical about what has been said and what has happened.

I was hoping to see the letter in your print edition as it might reach a few more people if you would include it in an upcoming paper. It would also be good to see more stories on this issue, with emphasis on the views of people who chose to live here.

We’re getting fed up with developers and special interest groups that appear to have had undue influence and preferential treatment in the official weighting of responses. It’s quite a challenge to keep up with all of the sudden changes and surprises, and it feels sneaky, more and more so.

Port Moody has changed a lot in just a few years. When people are invited to provide input into how the city should approach the future, they want to feel confident they are not wasting their time and not dealing with hidden agendas. So far, we’re unconvinced of that.

To top it off, we have not improved our infrastructure to accommodate the recent growth and we cannot continue to plan growth based on promises. It’s getting very tiresome.

We’re now in a recession, so the promises we’ve heard ad nauseam are more pie-in-the sky than ever before. Even if we had infrastructure improvements, they would just be catch-up. (And the Evergreen Line may not be the panacea to our woes.)

Many of us no longer feel valued in the community planning process.

Hazel Mason, Port Moody

Port Moody not listening to public opinion on towers
Tri-City News, August 14, 2009

The Editor,

Re: “Highrises Raise Some Concern in Moody” (Tri-City News July 31/09)

On July 25, Port Moody Council met to consider the latest draft Official Community Plan (OCP).

This draft designated the Heritage Mountain Shopping Village property (HMSV) as “Mixed Use Commercial/Residential” with maximum building heights of four storeys. (This designation was no doubt the result of several years of public consultation.)

The mayor, councillors Karen Rockwell, Meghan Lahti, and a seemingly-reluctant Bob Elliott, in a close vote, totally repudiated and ignored this community input which is opposed to high density development of this property, and instead passed a motion to allow building heights of up to 26 storeys. Councillors Mike Clay and Gerry Nuttall voted against the motion. Immediately after this vote, the meeting was abruptly adjourned and the OCP process put on hold.

Mayor Joe Trasolini and some council members link their support of further high density to the Murray/Clarke connector and the Evergreen Line. Our concerns have nothing to do with this. We are vehemently opposed to high density development of the shopping centre property — period. Enough is enough in this area — there will be a total of 12 high-rise towers in Inlet Centre when all of them that have already been approved are built.

As far as the mayor’s statement in the July 31 article that “there will be plenty of opportunity for residents to raise their density concerns” after Oct. 31, what on earth does he think Port Moody residents have been doing for the past three years?

My questions to the mayor and council are:

1. Why have you approved high-rise development on the Heritage Mountain Shopping Village property when, just last year, the entire council, except for the mayor, voted against a proposal for another tower at Suter Brook?

2. Why have you voted to allow high density on the HMSV property when there is no need for it in terms of “growing” the city?

3. Why have you voted to put the interests of a single property owner to develop his property above the interests of hundreds of neighbouring property owners in an already-established community who are strongly opposed to it?

I am not alone when I say that we feel totally betrayed by the OCP process as it is beyond cynical to be encouraged by the mayor to get involved in crafting the OCP document when it appears that he and some members of council can completely disregard community input. If we allow it to be done in our neighborhood, then all neighborhoods in Port Moody are in jeopardy.

Claire Cummings
Port Moody

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Taxpayers should benefit from development, too
Coquitlam NOW, Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The editor:

Re: “Highrises planned for Andrés site,” Friday, May 9.

I just finished reading your article on the Andrés development site.

I am astounded that the developer considers it his right to almost demand a change in zoning because construction costs, etc. have risen.

I assume he is not considering (1) that the zoning in place is there for a reason, (2) lowering his profit expectations, and (3) that the citizens of Port Moody may not want his idea of an “entrance” to Port Moody.

It may be that many residents of Port Moody may actually not want the beautiful shoreline and resultant views peppered with monolithic highrises.

Maybe we could re-zone all of the foreshore so developers could build as many highrises as possible in the shortest time possible — costs are rising, you know — and we should rush to accommodate anyone wanting to build whatever they want so they can profit.

Maybe Port Moody council should look at sharing profits with any new developments as a condition of re- zoning.

If council is set on developing every square foot of developable land then the taxpayers of Port Moody should benefit — not just some developer.

Rod Archibald
Port Moody
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Andres tower proposal rises from 4 to 26 storeys
By Sarah Payne – The Tri-City News – May 09, 2008

Moody Centre residents are concerned about new high-density plans for the Andres Wines property and its implications for the Murray-Clarke Connector.

Included in the new plans are highrise towers of 26, 21 and 14 storeys, seniors’ housing and artists’ studios as well as office and retail space plus a light-industrial business park. Vintner Street is absorbed into the development, pushing the connector alignment back up on to Clarke Street.

“We’re concerned about that much density so close to heavy industry,” said Wendy Swalwell, president of the Moody Centre Community Association.

The five-acre site is next to Reichhold Chemicals, a plant that turns petroleum-based raw materials into resins for products such as boat hulls and bathtubs and in the manufacturing of paints, stains and varnishes. The plant runs around the clock and is serviced by tanker trucks and the nearby railway, as is Pacific Coasts Terminals, which handles sulphur.

Swalwell added that the 2008 draft official community plan only calls for multi-family residential development of about three to four storeys — nowhere near the 26 being suggested.

The new proposal comes more than a year after Urbanics Consultants Ltd. first brought a mixed-use concept to Port Moody’s land use committee. Residents and council members raised a number of concerns and asked the developers to go back to the drawing board to resolve six main issues:

• the Murray-Clarke Connector alignment;
• residential land use next to heavy industry;
• the highrise component;
• environmental concerns;
• provision of affordable housing;
• and incorporating Smart Growth principles.

Urbanics says the new proposal addresses those issues.

The residential component has been moved back from the industrial area and situated closer to Clarke Street with the business park providing a buffer between the two.

Residents and the land use committee objected to highrises in that location but Urbanics not only retained that aspect of the plan but increased their proposed height. Andrew Newman of Urbanics said the towers are higher now to account for project delays and the resulting rising construction costs.

“But this also creates more public and open space at the plaza level,” he said. “It preserves the views better and minimizes shadows.

The total number of units is just shy of 460.

Retail, office and light-industrial space is estimated at 108,000 square feet to address employment concerns. Public amenities include a neighbourhood police station, a Trans Canada Trail lodge, performance flex space, a day care, seniors lounge and grocery store.

Urbanics also envisions a nearby Evergreen Line station, just below the Douglas Street and Clarke Road intersection, and it has incorporated access points for commuters into the proposed plan.

Newman said the “hybrid” alignment for the Murray-Clarke Connector was designed based on the amount of funding allocated to the project and discussions with traffic consultants; the Clarke Street component shifted further north and straightened slightly to improve sight lines and safety.

The updated plans will go back to PoMo’s land use committee on May 20.

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Don’t build until we see the whites of their lines
The Tri City News [Coquitlam, B.C] 16 Jan 2008: 11.

The Editor,

Re. “On hold awaiting TransLink decision, dev’t moves ahead” (The Tri-City News, Nov. 11).

Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves? Cart before the horse?

Port Moody’s streets are clogged with all manner of vehicles. Public transit is at capacity, particularly during peak times, including buses and the West Coast Express. This congestion has been worsening for years and will continue to worsen for the foreseeable future. Infrastructure has not kept pace with development, and residents have vocalized this issue to city council and staff time after time.

Port Moody is the fastest growing municipality in the Lower Mainland (according to census figures released in 2007). Many residential units are currently under development, including several towers and many lower-rise townhouse and condo units. From most vantage points, the construction boom is evident, and the census figures merely confirm the obvious.

Mayor Joe Trasolini has voted against density rezoning since spring of 2007, stating that the city cannot sustain additional increased density without people-moving infrastructure improvements — such as the long-awaited Murray-Clarke Connector.

Now, everything appears to be business as usual based on approval for preliminary design work for the Murray-Clarke Connector. Three single-family lots are slated to become 23 townhouse units — just one project of potentially many, including developments with much greater impacts. Why?

Is it not premature — and a bit naive, short-sighted and misguided — to allow rezoning for increased density now because of an assumption that all will be well later? How about waiting until the infrastructure is in place and then judging whether more density makes sense.

Hazel Mason, Port Moody

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