Protecting our local quality of life

Bert Flinn Clearing (3)

A developer from Hong Kong will seek to cut a busy, noisy expressway through the primal nature refuge of Bert Flinn Park, to feed auto traffic to its upcoming Ioco Lands development. Bad for wildlife, bad for Park users, and awful for our local quality of life.

About the Ioco Lands development project. In January 2015 a Hong Kong-based developer, the Brilliant Circle Group, announced its purchase of a large tract of land from the Imperial Oil Company. Called the Ioco Lands, this 232-acre parcel extends from the inlet shores of Port Moody northward into the Anmore hills, on ecologically delicate and difficult terrain zoned for only lowest-density development (single family homes) and ample lot sizes.  Two-thirds of the land is located in Anmore.

At meetings with the public, BCG has insisted since the summer of 2015 that it has no firm idea yet what it intends to build on the Ioco Lands and how many thousands of new residents it aims to bring there.  What seems plain, however, is that the developer will seek to persuade Port Moody and Anmore to raise the permitted density zoning so that it can pursue its stated ambition to establish a major new residential community whose concentrated population, services, and retail offerings will make it a “destination hub for the entire area.”

Starting from a housing tract developer’s preliminary roadbed discontinued twenty years ago, BCG’s project would include the construction of a noisy high-traffic corridor to the Ioco Lands that proceeds through the heart of Bert Flinn Park, Port Moody’s largest, quietest, and most natural urban park.  And passing overhead dangerously near the Mossom Creek Hatchery, BCG would also construct a big traffic bridge that cuts into the park’s pristine, fragile watershed.

The Ioco Lands purchase covers 232 acres, 150 acres in Anmore and 82 in Port Moody.

The Ioco Lands purchase covers 232 acres, 150 acres in Anmore and 82 in Port Moody.

In response to the expressed concerns of Park users, the developer has begun recently to speak of shifting the roadway route through the Park so that the old roadbed would remain available as an off-leash area, and suggests optimistically that installing some underpasses along the route would suffice to prevent wildlife roadkill: the developer continues to ignore the larger concern that installing a noisy, hectic traffic corridor across the middle of the Park will fundamentally and forever compromise the Park’s tranquility, ecosystem, and enjoyment for other uses.

Although BCG told the press that it intended to present its formal development proposal to the City of Port Moody by June of 2016, it has yet to do so.  We are standing by to assess the proposal in detail, when it arrives.

Concerned local residents uniting. A citizen’s group formed in 2015 to gather and represent local residents’ concerns about possible adverse impacts of the proposed “hub” development on local traffic congestion, particularly along Ioco Road in Port Moody and East Road in Anmore, and on the preservation and public enjoyment of Bert Flinn Park.

Our fast-growing group  — which now enjoys support from more than 2,000 local residents, and has drawn intense media interest — is still exploring the issues and options, but we believe that to build a busy roadway bisecting Bert Flinn Park in this way would destroy forever the integrity and serenity of this special nature park.  Our position is that this high-traffic corridor must not be built, and that the Hong Kong developer should be held to current local zoning restrictions in PoMo and Anmore.

Park Sign (3)Update on conversations with local officials.  Our citizen’s action group has reached out to, and met individually with, all members of Port Moody’s town council and Mayor Mike Clay.  We have also met with John McEwen, Anmore’s mayor (who told us that Anmore residents do not see any pressing need to put a roadway through Bert Flinn Park). To gain historical background on the Park’s founding, we’ve spoken with past city managers and citizen activists; and PoMo’s then-city manager Kevin Ramsey has provided us with an overview of the development approval process.

To understand what the Ioco Lands developer has in mind, our team has attended its three public presentations in Port Moody and its public talk in Anmore.  At these sessions we’ve also spoken a couple times with James Cheng, the Vancouver architect and front man for Brilliant Circle Group.

Park gets active use in all seasons by 5 neighborhoods -Anmore, Heritage Mountain, Twin Creeks, Pleasantside/Barber Lane, and April Road.

The Park gets year-round use by 5 neighboring communities – Anmore, Heritage Mountain, Twin Creeks, Pleasantside/Barber Lane, and April Road; plus many visitors from Belcarra, Port Moody, & Coquitlam.

Here, in brief, is what we’ve heard.  Representing BCG, Cheng’s public presentations have carefully downplayed the traffic impact of his envisioned hub community by presenting an incomplete and rather misleading traffic study which implies a new route through the Park can divert almost all non-local through-traffic away from Ioco Road.  His study pointedly leaves out any calculation of the heavy new influx of local traffic congestion that BCG’s own proposed development would generate — a development of still-undisclosed size that could be adding thousands of new drivers to our local roadways.

City Councillors Are Wary, Too.  We are not yet persuaded, and neither were most of the PoMo councillors we spoke with.  They, too, expressed worry that any significant residential and services development of the Ioco Lands would be likely to worsen traffic congestion on Ioco Road even if the proposed alternate road through the Park succeeded in siphoning off some traffic.  As one councillor noted, “A lot of commuters will probably still prefer Ioco Road as their shortest route to downtown, and if the development includes services and retail, many people will be taking Ioco Road to reach them.”

Most councillors also said they shared our concern that installing a busy car traffic corridor through the heart of Bert Flinn — and along the same old roadbed that today is the Park’s most popular hiking and dog-walking trail — would degrade the Park for other uses and diminish those qualities as a quiet nature reserve that make it unique within the PoMo park network.  That said, councillors noted of course that they were reserving judgment until the developer formally presents its plans to council.

The stated position of the City is that no new traffic will be allowed on Ioco Road and no new development on Ioco Lands unless and until a comprehensive plan is in place that includes an effective traffic alternative to Ioco Road.  The council has further made clear that the City will not pay for construction of this new road.

Whose Decision Is This Hot Potato – (A) PoMo City Hall or (B) the Province? Answer: (A).  One would suppose from the City’s firm directive that it has controlling authority over the decision whether or not a traffic corridor may be built across the Park, but some councillors advised us (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the City lacks the authority to prevent the proposed roadway.  They explained that the decision to build a traffic corridor through the Park was actually out of their hands because the road would be built along a strip of land running through the municipal Park that is owned by the Crown, not the City.  (The strip, we were told, had been set aside for many years by the province in order to accommodate an eventual arterial roadway that might feed a potential bridge connection from Belcarra to Deep Cove.)   These councillors asserted that, if BCG wanted to build a road through the Park, it would be in position to proceed without obtaining the City’s permission, so long as the Crown approved.

Park Map showing proposed roadway

Initially opposed by a City Hall that favored developers, local residents voted overwhelmingly in 1999 to create and protect Bert Flinn Park. Now an off-shore developer proposes using a strip of land not yet included in the Park to carve a busy thoroughfare across the middle of Bert Flinn, and plans to install a traffic bridge across delicate watershed near Mossum Creek Hatchery.  PoMo’s council should instead add the strip to the Park.

Alarmed to hear this interpretation, we asked the Province of British Columbia to clarify its position and intentions regarding the strip of land bisecting Bert Flinn.  We are  happy to report that, in the determination of the provincial authorities we consulted, the strip of land in question is owned completely by the City of Port Moody, not by the Crown, and the Crown has no plan on record to see an arterial road built in that location. Claims to the contrary are mythical.   

We obtained this information through the help of Port Moody-Coquitlam’s MLA, Linda Reimer.  Reimer’s office consulted the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources “about the narrow strip of land that bisects the two halves of Bert Flinn Park.” According to the MLA’s office, “the Ministry reconfirmed that the Crown has never owned any piece of that land.  It was owned by private owners (developers and Imperial Oil) whom the City acquired it from.  Since the Province has never owned that land, it is not up to them but to the City to decide what happens to it and in it.”

This is good news, and it gives the City’s council full latitude and full responsibility to protect the future of Bert Flinn Park by finding a less destructive route for any new roadway to the Ioco Lands.

The Way Forward – Find A Better Solution to Address Concerns About Local Traffic Growth.  Based on our findings so far, our resident’s group believes that Port Moody’s elected city officials should vote to formally annex the old roadbed to the Park proper, and should work with Anmore’s leaders to either block the Ioco Lands rezoning effort altogether and/or find a less damaging, alternative traffic solution to relieve the inevitable skyrocketing of local road congestion that will result from that development.  On the “Transit Options” tab of this site you can read about a range of alternative options for addressing North Shore’s growing traffic headaches without resorting to the degradation of Bert Flinn Park.

Bert Flinn Park offers competition-quality bike trails that the high-traffic expressway would cut right through.

Bert Flinn Park offers superior competition-grade bike trails that the high-traffic expressway would cut directly through.

 

The residents of Port Moody, Anmore, and Belcarra live today in a remarkable garden of Eden, one of the last gems of the greater Vancouver region, and we must take extra steps to protect its remaining wild places from rapacious over-development.  Local residents believe that some things in life are more important than assisting out-of-town developers with their money-making goals, no matter how tempting these may appear in the short run.

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Please check back again soon. And thank you for your interest in preserving the special quality of life that we all enjoy in this serenely beautiful place — Port Moody, Belcarra, & Anmore.

Red Jacket (3)

To be close to the quiet, intimate wildness of Bert Flinn Park is why many of us have chosen to make a life in this special place.

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