Port Moody’s Coronation Park development is headed to a public hearing.
The largest and most debated development project in city history will, somewhat fittingly, also likely have the largest public hearing turnout in city history.
Council has decided to expand the public hearing’s mail-out notifications to every address in the city, following a 5-1 vote to move the application forward on Tuesday.
Coun. Haven Lurbiecki – who has stood alone on council in opposition to the development – introduced a motion to expand the 140 metre radius to more neighbourhoods.
Further discussion led to the unanimous decision for an even wider mailout.
“No matter where councillors or residents stand on this development, I think we can all agree that it will impact everyone in our community,” Lurbiecki said.
Wesgroup Properties’ 15-acre development on the northeast corner of the Ioco Road and Barnett Highway intersection has remained controversial for many residents.
The project includes six residential towers between 26 and 31 storeys, numerous low-rise buildings complete with commercial and office space, a municipal-owned civic facility, a 2.5 acres park, and a pedestrian overpass to the SkyTrain station.
The most controversial aspect of the project is the lack of affordable housing; out of the 2,587 residential units, none are being offered at below-market rates and only 101 are being offered as market rentals.
Instead, Wesgroup has promised to explore affordable housing at later development phases of the 10-year build out.
The developer submitted a letter of intent in April, committing themselves to help the city reach its targets following rezoning approval in exchange for more density.
Wesgroup Vice President Brad Jones stated Tuesday that the company is working on an application to BC Housing Community Housing Fund to capture subsidies.
Since the Wesgroup first applied to amend the official community plan in 2020 to increase the density, the project has undergone numerous revisions.
At first, the former council requested affordable housing be included in the project, but removed the request in exchange for lower tower height and density.
Council then passed an inclusionary zoning policy in 2022, which required high-density developments to provide a minimum of 15 percent below market units.
Coun. Kyla Knowles placed the blame for the lack of affordable housing on the previous council, but said she was optimistic they would be able to secure it later.
“This council, to certain extent, has been cornered by the previous council who did not see fit to prioritize affordable units or varied unit mix. That’s just where we are,” Knowles said. “Please remember that this is a project that will have many phases.”
Wesgroup’s rezoning application has requested the city’s inclusionary zoning expectations be waived, relying on a flexibility clause which allows the requirements to be offset by other significant contributions.
These contributions total around $100 million in amenity contributions, developers fees, and infrastructure upgrades, according to the developer.
Wesgroup has submitted three financial analyses to the city, detailing how the affordable component of the project is financially unfeasible.
Jones has frequently pointed to the financial strain on the project due to the extended timeline.
On Tuesday he reiterated that holding costs were extreme due to the current interest rates: “It continues to be a pain point for us,” he said.
Coun. Diana Dilworth highlighted the number of benefits the community would reap from the development.
She said the developer had made strides to meet council’s specific requests year-over-year, and it was time to send it forward to a public hearing.
“The last time this came before us, I asked, ‘best case scenario, when will we see occupancy?’ The applicant said 2028,” Dilworth said. “That is incredibly frustrating knowing that we have a housing crisis right now and we need homes sooner rather than later.”
But lack of affordable housing remains a concern even to those councillors generally supportive of the overall proposal.
Although Coun. Amy Lubik said she appreciates the rent-to-own component with some rentals, she said she struggles moving the project forward without affordable housing.
She and Lurbiecki both voted against waiving the exclusionary zoning policy.
“It’s very hard to support not being closer to what our targets were,” Lubik said.
Mayor Meghan Lahti acknowledged the concern over the lack of affordable housing, admitting she had also worried about waiving the city’s requirements.
However, she said she truly believes that refusing to drop the requirement would move the project backwards.
She added Wesgroup has already reached out to her, requesting to sit down and discuss affordable housing.
“I hear what everybody’s saying around the table,” Lahti said. “I believe that the proponent is being earnest when they say that they’re coming to the table with affordable housing.”
Staunchly against moving the project forward, Lurbeicki said there is a false sense that the project needs to be rushed.
She railed against the proposal’s unit distribution, lack of housing diversity, lack of compensation for parking reduction, and failure to align with the city’s housing needs and jobs-to-population ratio.
Lurbiecki noted the jobs being provided were less than half of the city’s target, adding the 266 parking-stall reduction could have netted the city an additional $26 million for affordable housing.
“The result of this is going to just be higher taxes for everyone when we are a bedroom community without a diversified tax base,” Lurbiecki said. “We could have gotten this right. This was a missed opportunity.”
Another concern voiced by the staff report regards Wesgroup’s construction plans for the pedestrian overpass.
Wesgroup has proposed the construction take place in phase three of the development, and has committed only $6 million towards it.
City staff are requesting it be constructed in the first phase, and anticipate the cost will be significantly higher, according to the report.
Staff are now exploring avenues to secure additional funding.
Such an additional expense shouldn’t have to be passed on to the city, said Coun. Callan Morrison.
Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch