Port Moody, quintessential West Coast. A city of 30,000 people at the eastern limits of Burrard Inlet. Recreational mecca for the Metro Vancouver region. But major changes are being proposed with the Official Community Plan, which is in Council on Monday, September 23 starting 5 pm for a chapter-by-chapter review. If on live web video, it will be here. It is going to a Town Hall Meeting on September 30.
This is an important story for the whole Metro Vancouver region. Read below to see the analysis by the Moody Centre Community Association in their August 2013 bulletin. Anyone interested, please contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org [note address correction].
Excerpt: The latest OCP draft proposes a 300 to 400% increase in population in Moody Centre, the original historic Port Moody town site. The draft also proposes a 200% plus population increase for the Inlet Centre area which has already added several thousand residents in the last 6 to 8 years because “Skytrain is coming.” Download the MCCA bulletin in PDF MCCA OCP information bulletin- August 2013 or read online below (please excuse our formatting). (See also the MetroVanWatch info page on Port Moody.)
The OCP is back to Port Moody council on Tuesday, September 10. A town hall is planned for September 30, 2013.
THEORY – Conceptual rendering (OCP material)
REALITY Photo – St. John’s St. rush hour (single-family homes due south)
“What’s wrong with this picture?”
Overall Community Vision, chapter 3
(current, not proposed)
Port Moody, City of the Arts, is a unique, safe, vibrant waterfront city of strong neighbourhoods; a complete community that is sustainable and values its natural environment and heritage character as well as:
- Protecting, remediating and enhancing the community’s environmentally sensitive resources, recreation areas and heritage assets for public use and enjoyment;
- Maintaining the “small town” character of the community;
- Encouraging developments that respect the community and are functional, universally accessible, architecturally sympathetic and environmentally sound;
- Encouraging physical development and cultural activities that enhance the sense of community in the City distinguishing Port Moody from its neighbours;
- Encouraging and maintaining a strong and diversified economy and tax base;
- Supporting community involvement and input when determining future directions for the City.
- Seeking a balance between environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability in all decision-making.
Port Moody, City of the Arts, has a coat-of-arms featuring our mountains, trees and water and the words “Blest by Nature – Enriched by Man.”
Target areas for population intensification
The latest OCP draft proposes a 300 to 400% increase in population in Moody Centre, the original historic Port Moody town site. The draft also proposes a 200% plus population increase for the Inlet Centre area which has already added several thousand residents in the last 6 to 8 years because “Skytrain is coming.”
What began as one highrise tower a dozen years ago is now amidst a sea of highrises, and not all approved building is completed (or even started). In addition, the former bog lands adjacent to Murray Street are now home to many new households, mainly in the form of townhouses and 4 storey condo buildings.
This new proposed plan is substantially different than the previous draft adopted in early 2011 after years of public input. The city is now promoting “transit-oriented development” also known as TOD. TOD was not a phrase used in previous drafts (when the maximum building height in Moody Centre was 4-5 storeys on the north side of St. John’s Street).
Many people are under the false impression that Port Moody is obligated to pursue an aggressive development and density (intensification) strategy because of the Evergreen Skytrain Line, scheduled for completion in 2016. That is incorrect.
In fact, Port Moody is ahead of its regional commitments for growth, largely because of major population growth over the last few years. Port Moody is considered a municipal town centre, not a regional or primary urban core in Greater Vancouver.
This plan, if approved, would allow the city’s overall population to double from the current 35,000 (approximate figures). However, the city has not explained why the new draft plan is of benefit to Moody Centre or to the city as a whole.
The proposed new OCP plan envisions much greater density, with more compact and taller buildings (up to 28 storeys in Moody Centre and 30 storeys in the Inlet Centre area).
Special study areas – The proposed plan does not adequately address the potential impacts of “special study areas” (SSAs), large land areas which include the Ioco lands on the north shore, the Suncor lands on Port Moody’s west side, and the Mill and Timber (Flavelle) industrial lands adjacent to Rocky Point Park. In addition, the western end of Moody Centre, which includes the former Andres (wine) site is a recently added SSA. The issue of industrial lands (and the loss of) needs serious discussion. Also requiring discussion: the issue of a balance in land use to meet different needs, suitable locations, transition zones from industrial to residential, and from high density to low density.
Issues that must be addressed include:
- What is the business case, and what are the numbers (financial and otherwise) to support this plan? What are the benefits? What are the consequences? How would current revenue be affected by any changes?
- How will the city accommodate increased population – including traffic, parks and recreation, public facilities, emergency services?
- What will the impact be on taxes for residents and businesses? [see debt graph]
- How will the environment be protected, including greenspace, creeks and rivers and inlet, the air we breathe, the soil beneath us?
Population growth and debt in Port Moody
Port Moody has been the fastest growing city per capita in the Lower Mainland (up 20% from 2006 to 2011, on top of 16% from 2001 to 2006). Our total land area – including forests and undeveloped areas – is 26.21 sq. km (6,476 acres), and resembles a “bowl” surrounded by hills, where bad air can be trapped. Moody Centre is one small part, as is Inlet Centre.
As a narrow strip of land of less than 1 km between the Burrard Inlet to the north and the Chines slope to the south, Moody Centre has historically been considered unsuitable for major dense development for many reasons, including few roads in and out, major industry, and geography.
As the city’s population expanded rapidly, debt per capita exploded. New residential development incurred increased costs (e.g., city staff including police and fire, infrastructure, etc.). The graph below is from the 2012 City of Port Moody Annual Report, and is on the city website.
Geographic, environmental, and social impacts
The proposed OCP does not address natural hazards. Much of lower Port Moody is at risk for slides (the chines hillside, for example), and soil liquefaction in the event of a major earthquake. Current building standards require updating.
The building of highrises in these zones is very unwise.
|Soil liquefaction hazard – the light brown shaded area (#4) is described as sand and silt that could liquefy during a strong earthquake. The darker brown area (by #4 and #10) is identified as landfill (former tidal flats).|
These are not the only issues (see OCP maps).
Since the recent Calgary/High River and Toronto area flooding which caused major social and economic damage, and other events that were once considered “100 year events” but are now common, urban planners are increasingly asking what changes might be necessary to reduce harmful impacts, including where and how to build. Toronto’s Hurricane Hazel (in the news again due to the 2013 Toronto flooding) resulted in much stricter rules for where housing could be located, because many homes and lives were lost when the HumberRiver (valley) flooded. Apart from weather events, it is necessary to look at how close residential development should be to other uses such as industrial – to minimize risk (e.g., accidents, air and water quality issues).
Some potential impacts and considerations:
- significant change in the “feel” and heritage character of Port Moody
- within 1 to 2 blocks, the zoning could “transition” from single-family to multiple storeys up to 30
- additional road congestion, impaired movement of emergency vehicles, increased carbon emissions, increased parking issues
- impact on views
- more people using the same amount of park space (e.g., RockyPointPark), and all existing infrastructure
- impact on property values and taxes
- Urban Heat Island effect: loss of green, dense construction, highrise “canyons” – all contribute to temperature changes, and air quality issues
- Intensification and highrise development also create wind tunnels, water drainage and soil stabilization issues, decimation of native wildlife species, and other social and biological impacts.
Whose plan is this?
The plan does not conform to requirements outlined by the Local Government Act, requirements which include facts on present and proposed commercial, institutional, recreational, parks and public facilities, and major road, sewer and water systems. It must also consider restrictions on the use of land that is subject to hazardous conditions or that is environmentally sensitive to development.
Non-residential lands such as industrial and commercial – how might the balance change? What are the environmental issues? What impact would this have on the make-up of the city, including taxation? If industrial lands are converted to residential, the tax structure and public facilities needs will change.
The first draft of this current proposed OCP was presented in late November 2012 (untelevised meeting), and the original timeline was to have the draft approved by April 2013. The public has been told this document is a draft and the city welcomes input from concerned residents and local business. However, the timeline, statements, and actions suggest otherwise. For example, at its meeting of July 23, 2013 (agenda and minutes available on city website), council was asked to provide feedback for the Port Metro Vancouver Land Use Plan. Referring to the Mill and Timber (Flavelle) sawmill site (called the “Oceanfront District” in the draft OCP), the document states:
- “The City is supportive of rezoning to create transit-oriented development at this location given that it is within a 400m walking distance from one of the new Evergreen Line stations.” [!]
- At the meeting, council did not object to the above sentence drafted by city staff.
- The site is not within the 400m area of an actual station (i.e., Moody Centre Station).
- Is the public input process a sham? Is this process transparent and inclusive? Is this plan truly a draft?
A city report dated May 21, 2013 (committee of the whole) states that public feedback resulted in low support, but technically a “pass”:
- 50% support for the “Oceanfront District” (currently Mill and Timber)
- 51% support for Moody Centre transit-oriented development
- 54% support for Inlet Centre transit-oriented development
The methodology is not clear, and the results are very different from the feedback provided to the Moody Centre Community Association (two of the above fall within the Moody Centre area). MCCA has heard very clearly that these proposals are not what the people living here want, and would “fail” in any objective and fair vote. The approval/disapproval numbers from the city compared to those from MCCA and other Port Moody residents are not even close. This disparity was also very evident in two subsequent town hall events held in June.
Most important, perhaps – why were residents attracted to live in Port Moody? What changes are acceptable, and what changes are not?
Will the city listen to its residents?
If implemented, this growth plan would affect the entire city of Port Moody – and beyond our borders. More discussion and public input is necessary.
The Evergreen Skytrain Line and this OCP are the most significant events in Port Moody in more than a century – since the arrival of the transcontinental railway line in 1886. It is crucial to get it right.
Proposed development area map
The circled area on the left labelled “Future potential station” is not part of the current approved plan for the Evergreen Line.
|Current map (before proposed changes)Port Moody zoning – current – overall area ðNote the small amount of green park zoning on the south shore waterfront, where major development is proposed.|
|Port Moody zoning – current – Moody Centre and Inlet Centre areas — If implemented, the proposed changes are such that the city would bear no resemblance to what it is today.The community values of heritage, small-town feel, and appreciation of nature are at great risk.|
|This document was prepared by the Moody Centre Community Association (MCCA). Contact: email@example.com.It has been fact-checked, and is accurate as of August 2013. The OCP proposal can be viewed on the city website (www.portmoody.ca).|
 See ‘Port Moody plan envisions sea of highrises’; The Province, Kent Spencer, April 23, 2013.
 Source: http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/
RGSDocs/RGSAdoptedbyGVRDBoardJuly292011.pdf. See pages 20 and 68.
 Not including all of the special study areas.
 See GeoMap Vancouver, geological map of the Vancouver Metropolitan area; Turner, R J W; Clague, J J; Groulx, B J; Journeay, J M. Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 3511, 1998.
 See ‘Protection from impact of climate change will be costly: Expect more floods, droughts, heat waves and cold snaps as global warming accelerates’; Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun, July 25, 2013.
 See ‘Are We Planning a Disaster Resilient Region? An Evaluation of Official Community Plans in Metro Vancouver’; Jessica Shoubridge, UBCSchool of Community Regional Planning, February 2012.
 See ‘Scary monsters looming above city / High-rise buildings block light, destroy community’; Mary McFadden, San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 2007.
 Moody Centre and Inlet Centre have much less destination parkland per person than other areas of our city. RockyPointPark is beyond planned capacity and the master parks plan was last updated in 2003, prior to the addition of approximately 12,000 additional residents, most of whom live close to the park and wish to make use of the park.
See also: ‘Urban street canyons: Coupling dynamics, chemistry and within-canyon chemical processing of emissions’; Vivien Bianca Bright, William James Bloss, , Xiaoming Cai, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231012010382.
 See A sustainable vision for Moody or Sardine City?, May 3, 2013; and Protecting and enhancing the chines’ streams, July 25, 2013, by Elaine Golds, The Tri-City News.
 See Local Government Act, Part 26, Division 2, #877, OCP Required content.
 See May 21, 2013 Council Committee of the Whole agenda, 4.1 – Community Feedback. Available on city website.
 See ‘Canada’s Best Places to Live 2013’; MoneySense, March 20, 2013; available online at http://www.moneysense.ca/2013/03/20/canadas-best-places-to-live-2013/. Eight of Canada’s 10 most densely populated cities don’t crack MoneySense‘s top 10 overall Best Places to Live list.
 These targets (circled areas) do not include all of the “special study areas” such as the Suncor lands to the west and Ioco lands on the north shore.
 See ‘Why should PoMo pay?, mayor asks’; by Diane Strandberg, The Tri-City News, August 12, 2010.