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UPDATED: Port Metro Vancouver readies Low Level Road communtiy sessions
Escaping February is a common Canadian experience, shared both by those dreaming of retiring their shovels or their umbrellas for another season.
For others in North Vancouver’s Moodyville, Queensbury and South Slope neighbourhoods, however, this February isn’t just a damp humdrum four weeks — it’s the final month before they get to see what new designs Port Metro Vancouver has prepared for the potential overhaul of the Low Level Road.
Last Saturday at Lonsdale Quay, the port began a string of community engagement sessions aimed at finding a middle ground with residents on the controversial large-scale job.
In an interview at The Outlook’s office on Feb. 9, Cindy McCarthy, communications advisor at PMV, said the preliminary events, including an open house scheduled for Feb. 15 at the John Braithwaite Community Centre, are intended to "involve people who weren't involved" in the oft-discussed project in 2010. As a result, this month's sessions will not feature many new details on the port's plans for the road.
PMV staff did reveal that only one overpass in the Neptune/Cargill terminals area, just north of the intersection at Third Street and Cotton Road, would be built. Originally, PMV had earmarked two dedicated overpasses in its plans, one at St. Patricks Avenue and the other at Neptune.
The existing intersection located at St. Georges Avenue is now being considered as the access point for western port facilities. Also revealed were designs for a new left turn option from Heywood Street heading east on Third Street.
Information on the elevation of the Low Level Road as well as its distance from the neighbouring community — key points of conflict with those living in the potentially affected area — will be outlined in March, as will data concerning potential noise affects of a raised road and a slope stability analysis. The latter items are of key interest to the city as its $1 million contribution to the job last summer was to assist in ascertaining that information.
Thus far, Tony Barber, the city’s manager of engineering, planning and design, has provided the only new height-related information when he told The Outlook last month that plans for the road have been lowered by four metres east of St. Andrews Avenue. Port staff, on the other hand, have only said the road will be kept “as low as possible."
Because of the lack of detailed designs offered by PMV, one resident who attended the open house at the Quay said he left feeling “cautiously optimistic.”
Michael Binkley, a resident of East First Street, told The Outlook he was pleased with the opportunity to once again share his neighbourhood’s concerns with port staff but said he plans to push the city for more information before March because he doesn’t want the community to be presented with designs it will vehemently oppose.
“If we’re blindsided in March, then what? Then we’re in a tough spot. I was pleased to talk with Port Metro Vancouver and let them know we’re not NIMBYs,” said Binkley.
“But it’s yet to be seen if this is just lip service. Do they care about delivering something we can all agree on? Accountability is above all our community’s concern.”
Next month, more sessions are planned for March 3 at Ridgeway elementary from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., March 7 at the Pinnacle Hotel from 5 - 8 p.m. and March 24 at Ridgeway elementary again from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. These events are considered open houses, where more display boards will be available for view by the public.
For those who wish to offer their thoughts and feedback on the project, three workshops are scheduled for March 3, 8 and 24. At these events, PMV staff will be taking suggestions from residents and will attempt to incorporate them into a final design.
In May, PMV staff forecast hosting more events where a design incorporating community feedback from the March sessions will be presented. Also in May, the city will be hosting its own Low Level Road meeting. PMV is targeting a return to council chambers in June for a final decision on the project.
“I’m more confident, but March will be the test if our $1 million was well spent,” added Coun. Pam Bookham, an attendee at the weekend session.
“Between March and June I believe there will be enough time to talk about remaining issues and determine whether or not the port's design achieves the end we hoped for when we bought in.”
For more details on events scheduled including dates and times for the workshops in March, visit portmetrovancouver.ca or porttalk.ca, PMV's online forum dedicated to the Low Level Road project.