BC government fires warning shot to City of Port Moody's consideration of reducing future density around SkyTrain station

Jul 22 2022, 1:08 am

The City of Port Moody has signalled that it is contemplating the potential of lowering the level of density permitted around SkyTrain Moody Centre Station, and this appears to be a cause for concern for the provincial government.

Moody Centre Station is one of two SkyTrain stations within Port Moody, built in 2016 as part of the Evergreen Extension of the Millennium Line. It also doubles as a West Coast Express commuter rail station.

Since 2018, a consortium of nine property owners of a land area of 23 acres that surround Moody Centre Station have been seeking the municipal government’s approval to amend the official community plan (OCP) to allow for a mix of residential, commercial, and institutional uses within high-density building forms, including high-rise towers.

Moody Centre TOD Area Master Planning Group includes Anthem Properties, Beedie Living, PCI Developments, Woodridge Homes, three local families, TransLink, and the provincial government, which has major legacy assets in the area from its land acquisitions related to building the Evergreen Extension.

moody centre transit oriented development port moody

Existing condition of the Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development site. (Google Maps)

Moody Centre TOD Area Master Planning Group Port Moody

Conceptual form depiction of Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development in Port Moody. (Moody Centre TOD)

All of these owners combined are looking to build up to 4,100 homes — including a mix of condominiums, market rental homes, and below-market rental homes — and commercial and institutional space generating 2,000 on-site jobs. Early concepts call for more than a dozen towers reaching up to 36 storeys.

However, the municipal government appears to be opening the possibility of considering a different direction that potentially lowers the area’s buildable density. The City is planning to conduct a new public consultation on five land use scenarios for Moody Centre TOD, including three scenarios that propose a reduction in the amount of density and opportunities for housing. Only one scenario contemplates additional density for housing.

A previous survey conducted by the City in 2021 found that out of all the areas eyed for urban growth, the area around Moody Centre Station has the greatest public support for added housing and business/employment opportunities — 56% and 62%, respectively, in support.

In a rather pointed letter to Port Moody mayor Rob Vagramov in the middle of June 2022, the provincial government has essentially fired a warning shot across City Hall. The letter is jointly signed by BC minister of transportation and infrastructure Rob Fleming, BC minister of municipal affairs Nathan Cullen, and BC minister of environment and climate change strategy George Heyman.

“The Province is concerned that any proposal to amend the OCP and reduce the allowable densities in the area around Moody Centre Station will be inconsistent with regional goals and best practices for land use around rapid transit,” reads the letter.

It states that Moody Centre TOD’s existing proposal “builds on the objectives of Port Moody’s existing OCP and the goals of the region’s long-term transportation and land use strategies.”

Moody Centre TOD Area Master Planning Group Port Moody

Conceptual form depiction of Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development in Port Moody. (Moody Centre TOD)

Moody Centre TOD Area Master Planning Group Port Moody

Conceptual artistic rendering of Spring Street at Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development in Port Moody. (Moody Centre TOD)

Furthermore, “as the need for housing supply and affordability in Metro Vancouver remains critical, we must take advantage of every opportunity to concentrate new housing adjacent to fast and efficient rapid transit stations.”

The three ministers also suggested that moving forward, the provincial government’s new rapid transit investments are conditional on having the municipal governments onside with introducing real new density to optimize the transit-oriented development potential.

Learning from the slow progression of new housing following the completion of the Canada Line and Evergreen Extension, the provincial government and TransLink have required the City of Vancouver and City of Surrey to sign agreements that commit each jurisdiction to densifying around the future stations of the Millennium Line Broadway Extension and the Expo Line Surrey-Langley Extension. The agreements were made prior to finalizing the multi-billion dollar transit investments.

“With respect to future rapid transit investments, we will be seeking local government partners that are committed to working with us to maximize the potential of SkyTrain to developer higher density transit-oriented communities where housing will be concentrated and complemented by jobs, services, and amenities,” reads the letter.

The letter also notes the provincial government covered $583 million of the $1.4-billion cost to build the Evergreen Extension.

For more than a year, Vagramov has been urging City Council to examine the feasibility of constructing a third SkyTrain station serving future major developments within Port Moody, specifically a potential future additional station somewhere west of Moody Centre Station to the east tunnel entrance (near Clarke Street and Barnet Highway). In April, City Council rejected Vagramov’s proposal to spend $150,000 on a study to identify options for a “lower cost” additional SkyTrain station. More recently, the mayor suggested the municipal government should seek private sector interest on examining an additional station.

Last year, the City released the findings of a consultant’s study on the additional station, which was estimated to carry a cost of between $50 million and $100 million. It was also projected that an additional station would have relatively low ridership and compete with Moody Centre Station.

Daily Hive Urbanized reached out to the mayor for comment on the letter, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Moody Centre TOD Area Master Planning Group Port Moody

Conceptual artistic rendering of the transit plaza at Moody Centre Transit-Oriented Development in Port Moody. (Moody Centre TOD)

SkyTrain Moody Centre Station. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

The provincial government and TransLink recently signalled they will be taking a much more active, direct role in generating transit-oriented developments around their public transit investments.

Just last month, TransLink officially announced its plan to launch a for-profit real estate development division to build residential, commercial, and mixed-use developments near its public transit network as a measure to raise a new source of revenue, increase ridership, and help generate much-needed new housing. This division will spearhead its own projects, and partner with both for-profit and non-profit developers.

In April, the provincial government announced it will make legislation changes to grant BC Transportation Financing Authority (BCTFA) the legal ability to acquire land next to public transit hubs — SkyTrain stations and bus exchanges — to build mixed-use developments with housing, jobs, and community benefits. Previously, BCTFA had only been able to buy and expropriate the required land to build transportation projects, which it had done for the Evergreen Extension, including land next to Moody Centre Station.

But the provincial government has even more aggressive plans to stimulate new housing by intervening in municipal government affairs, which are under the jurisdiction of the province. Over a number of occasions in the past few months, BC minister responsible for housing David Eby has said he will reform the municipal approval process for housing construction after the October civic election to clear red tape that prevents much-needed new housing.

While significant new housing is eyed for Port Moody — including four major neighbourhood-sized redevelopments that are amongst some of Metro Vancouver’s largest projects — the pace of their progression has been relatively slower than the liking of housing critics and developers. Each project is in a varying hurdle or stage of the multi-layered municipal review process, mainly with OCP amendments and rezoning, which can take years before developers can reach the development permit application leading to shovels in the ground.

coronation park wesgroup port moody april 2022

April 2022 artistic rendering of the revised design for Coronation Park in Port Moody. (Boniface Oleksiuk Politano Architects/Wesgroup Properties)

woodland park port moody edgar

2022 artistic rendering of the Woodland Park redevelopment in Port Moody. (Edgar Development)

Moody Centre TOD is the largest of the four neighbourhood-sized redevelopments, followed by Wesgroup Properties’ 2,700 homes at Coronation Park next to SkyTrain Inlet Centre Station. The 15-acre Coronation Park project received its OCP approval in April, and this allowed the developer to submit the rezoning application earlier this month.

In December 2021, City Council approved the OCP amendments and rezoning for Edgar Development’s 24-acre Woodland Park project of 2,000 homes. Of all four redevelopments, Woodland Park’s progress is most advanced, with site preparation activities now well underway. The provincial government, through BC Housing, has a major stake in the Woodland Park project, as the developer has gifted five acres for the use of building hundreds of units of affordable rental homes. Much of the interest with providing Port Moody with a third SkyTrain station relates to serving Woodland Park more directly, given that it is at least a 30-minute walk to Moody Centre Station.

OCP amendments for the Flavelle Oceanfront development were first approved by the previous City Council in 2018, but this project of redeveloping the 34-acre sawmill into 3,400 homes has since stalled. The sawmill has seen temporary uses for the film and television production industry ever since it closed in 2020.

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