1. Coronation Park, a neighbourhood straddling two cities: Port Moody and Coquitlam
In the past 11 years as a City Councillor for Port Moody, I’ve often faced situations where joint planning between cities, Coquitlam School District 43, and other government agencies would have led to better results.
And while there are many scenarios to highlight, here are two of the more complex and recent examples well-documented by local media; Coronation Park, and Contaminants on School Grounds. They are prime examples where better outcomes would have been possible if we were able to bridge the gaps in our system to facilitate elected leaders working together in a timely manner.
We expect city and school district problems that overlap to be handled in a timely manner. However, schools continually face challenges when intersecting with civic matters. This isn’t a failure of our school board or the city, but rather a disconnect of the system. To fix this, we need to do something different. We need to think and do things differently if we are to tackle the challenges ahead.
Coronation Park School was built in 1963. That same year, a family moved into new homes on Buckingham Dr. In fact, the whole neighbourhood grew around Coronation Park School in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Coronation Park Elementary being in Coquitlam, it also supported growth in Coquitlam.
Housing used to be “planned” that way. The Glenayre community was built around Glenayre Elementary and Seaview around Seaview Elementary. Please don’t take this as an argument in favour of building more single-family neighbourhoods because I don’t think that’s sustainable. This is an argument in favour of planning for new schools at the same time as new housing, regardless of density.
By 2007, most Coronation Park families had grown older. Student enrolment was dropping. Newport Village, Suter Brook and Klahanie were developing rapidly at the time, but not fast enough to get kids’ seated at desks (meet minimum enrolment thresholds). Coronation Park Elementary closed in 2007.
Then in 2015, SD43 sold the 8-acre Coronation Park School site for $25 million. The proceeds were used for other school sites: to rebuild Banting Middle, replace boilers and meet other maintenance needs. Around the same time, development plans were being drawn up independently on both sides of the Coquitlam - Port Moody boundary. These two proposals will add over 10,000 people to Coronation Park without allocating space for future schools.
It would have been logical for the School District to intervene and make sure a school would accommodate population growth close to the Inlet Centre SkyTrain Station. However, a formal conversation about new school sites happens only once a year, when cities have to approve the School District’s Eligible School Site proposal, consistent with current provincial rules. These rules prove to be a systemic obstacle to joint plans.
2. Septic leakage from Tri-Cities housing strata contaminates school field
Rapid joint decision-making would have resolved sewage pollution much sooner for Eagle Mountain School. Meaning the horrendous situation of leeching sewage that students and families of Eagle Mountain Middle School and Anmore Green Estates had to endure for years, would not have persisted if we had greater synergy between government agencies. Anmore Green Estates’ septic issues are a classic case study about what went wrong as a result of the gaps in inter-agency decision-making.
Every organization involved (Coquitlam school District, Village of Anmore, City of Port Moody, and Metro Vancouver talked about the same over-arching goal: protect children from exposure to contaminated water and soil. Still, final resolution of this issue took two decades from the time authorities first detected contaminants, because organizations must better understand each other’s processes and priorities before they can get things done together in a timely manner.