2346 Clarke St. in Port Moody was the site of the city’s first Royal Bank branch. Google Earth image Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A protected heritage building in Port Moody is for sale, and the city is considering rezoning the property to save it from potentially damaging future uses. 

The building located at 2346 Clarke St. was built in 1914 and served as the city’s original Royal Bank of Canada branch until 1956. 

The building still contains many of its original features, such as an intact original bank vault, a hip roof, layout with fir floors, original moldings, and baseboards.

“The property was developed for commercial purposes 109 years ago, and its commercial use continues to this day,” said Carola Thompson, a consultant working with the current owners. “We propose no change to the use”

Despite the long history of commercial use, the property is zoned light industrial. No one discussing the application could say exactly why.

At some point in the 1980s, the north side of Clarke Street was “blanket zoned” industrial, according to Thompson.

“Imagine the impact more intrusive uses, such as a manufacturing plant, would have on the integrity of a completely restored, immaculate heritage building,” Thompson said.  “Industrial uses in small, protected heritage buildings aren’t a good match.”

The owners have poured money into the building to maintain and restore the heritage and integrity of the building’s exterior and interior, she added.

The owners have proposed a variance to allow general commercial uses on the 2,281 square foot building before it sells, and requested the city waive the public hearing to speed the process along.

The zoning would allow a variety of other uses, such as apartments, art studios, child-care spaces, athletic and recreation, offices, retail food and restaurants, and hotels.

Thompson said that despite the city approving an office renovation in 2004, new tenants have been told office space is not a permitted use for the past decade, putting “extraordinary hardship” on the owners. Staff said that in 2018, a zoning update did allow office space as a secondary use.

The site is located within the Moody Centre Heritage Conservation Area, and surrounded by other heritage buildings.

No potential buyers have been confirmed yet, and any potential renovations would require a building permit.

The building is also protected by a heritage covenant, limiting any exterior changes; any proposed alterations would require a heritage alteration permit.

The land use committee reviewed the application and also recommended the zoning change. They recommended preserving the existing number of stalls, and the interior of the building to match the heritage character.

The city will need to assess parking under any proposed uses when the property does sell, according to staff, and new owners will be required to enter into new agreements with the city relating to pedestrian access points.

While staff generally supports the rezoning, some of the allowable uses within the proposed zoning may not be compatible with retaining the interior of the heritage structure. 

Regardless, staff said preserving the building is more compatible with commercial uses than industrial uses.

Council comments

Council were generally supportive of the change and waiving the public hearing.

Coun. Diana Dilworth said sometimes its difficult to understand why past zoning decisions were made.

She said allowing the commercial uses would legitimize the traditional uses that have been in place on the property for decades.

Mayor Meghan Lahti agreed, guessing that the zoning change was likely the result of some defunct planning vision.

She added the building has always been used for office or retail space in her memory. “Everything across the street is commercial,” Lahti said.

The province passed new legislation in 2022 that allows local governments to waive public hearings prior to first readings of applications.

Dilworth and Lahti were in favour of waiving a public hearing, but stipulated it’s an action that should be used sparingly. 

“I think this is a tool that we will rarely use in extraordinary situations,” Dilworth said.

Coun. Callan Morrison said the city has recently approved a new industrial land strategy, which supports mixing light industrial with office and retail space.

He said it’s “not a stretch” for the city to allow commercial use on the property.

Council voted to waive the public hearing. The lone vote against was Coun. Haven Lurbiecki.

Lurbiecki said she was not a fan of rezoning without having an understanding of what future development was being proposed

She inquired with staff about what changes would be allowed if the property was converted to support apartment uses.

Staff said the heritage protections would not allow any changes to the exterior of the building, but some interior renovations could be allowed.

By Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 02, 2023 at 12:02

This item reprinted with permission from   Tri-Cities Dispatch   Coquitlam, British Columbia

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