Development around the main transit hub in Port Moody, B.C., has become a hot election issue as mayoral candidates consider what to build — or not to build — in the area.
Moody Centre Station has been a commuter rail stop since 1995, and a new SkyTrain station opened in December 2016.
It's also a bus loop, and the Park and Ride lot takes up most of the land in front of the station. Low-rise commercial and industrial buildings are scattered nearby, some of which are vacant.
The question is what to build on a nine-hectare section of underutilized land in the area. But city council has been divided on development issues, and ahead of the civic election, the city's two mayoral candidates have very different ideas for how to proceed.
In 2018, a consortium of nine local property owners in the area was formed to come up with a solution. The Moody Centre Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Area Master Plan Group have proposed a development that would bring more than 4,000 homes, 12 high-rise towers, retail space and new parks to the neighbourhood.
Mayoral candidate Meghan Lahti, who was first elected to Port Moody's city council in 1996, says the plan is an opportunity to consider both the climate crisis and the housing crisis in the community.
"What I'd like to have is affordable housing, seniors housing, family housing, jobs … so that people can live, work and play here, in Moody Centre," she said, adding that she wants infrastructure for alternative modes of transportation, such as ride-sharing, cycling, e-bikes and e-scooters, to make Port Moody less dependent on cars.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for TransLink — one of many property owners in the area, and a member of the Moody Centre TOD Area Planning Group — said it is working with the group on plans for development.
"TransLink is supportive of transit-oriented development as they improve people's access to transit, lower transportation-based greenhouse gas emissions, and help to build ridership."
However, mayoral candidate Steve Milani, who has been a council member since 2018, believes the community needs a different focus.
"We need to focus on what the residents are asking for. What they want is some good-paying jobs close to home," he said.
He acknowledged that housing for families and seniors is important, but jobs are his priority.
He wants council to consider bringing in a university campus, office space, tech companies, as well as an entertainment centre with a movie theatre, to draw in people from other parts of the Lower Mainland, to work and shop.
Milani said he's worried too many new housing units, and therefore new residents, could bring more traffic to an already congested region, even if they're within walking distance of transit.
Earlier this year, the city indicated it was planning a survey about land-use around Moody Centre Station, where there was an option to reduce the allowable density for the neighbourhood.
The province responded with a letter, saying that reducing densification would be inconsistent with best practices for land-use around rapid transit.
Despite having two SkyTrain stations in Port Moody in 2016 — Moody Centre Station and Inlet Centre Station — the city's population actually dropped between 2016 and 2021.
Civic elections across the province will be held on Oct. 15.