Letter to Ombudsperson re Onni hearing Nov 19

Ms Kim Carter

BC Ombudsperson

947 Fort Street

Victoria, BC

V8W 9A5

 

November 22, 2012

 

Ms Carter:

I am writing as a Councillor for the City of North Vancouver with regard to a public hearing held on Monday, November 19, 2012. I have serious concerns about the fairness of the process:

1.    I believe the public hearing failed to ensure that all those affected by the decision had a chance to give information and evidence to support their position.

 

2.    I also contend that the applicant interfered with Council’s duty to hear our citizens’ free and fair assessment of the proposal, whether for or against.

 

The speakers list was put out at 4:30 p.m. The usual practice is that individuals who wish to speak will sign in when they arrive at City Hall. However, on Monday, the developer’s representative took the speakers list shortly after it was put out and began to sign in names of his supporters en mass. As a result, 76 of the first 85 speakers spoke in support of the proposal. 

Many of those who spoke in favour were residents of the City who genuinely like the development and/or the density bonusing provisions. Many, however, were the developer’s employees, realtors or investors who reside in other communities.  I have since learned this practice is called “astroturfing.”

Those who oppose the project would have had to stay until midnight or later in order to be heard.

It is normal procedure for speakers to provide their address on the speakers list and to state it for the record before providing their input. This enables Council to give more weight to those who are most immediately affected. On this occasion, as you will see from the speakers list provided, the developer was unable to provide the addresses for those he signed in, and the Mayor stated that it was not necessary for speakers to provide their address.

The hearing in question began at 7 p.m. and ended at approximately 12:45 a.m., almost six hours without a recess.

The City Hall Chamber was full to overflowing with people seated in the lobby and in Committee Rooms A & B. There is clearly great interest in this proposal.

In total, Council heard from 95 speakers. At least 22 people who had signed the speakers list did not respond when their names were called. Whether they left  before they had the chance to speak, or did not attend at all, we will never know.

Also, we have no way of knowing how many wished to speak but were discouraged when they saw how long they would have to wait’ and so did not even sign the speakers list, or stayed as long as they could, but left when the hearing went so late

What is clear, however’ is that the applicant’s actions biased the process toward those who support the project. Instead of trusting the project to be judged fairly on its own merits, he engaged in what can only be described as bully tactics and deception in order to win approval.

Because of the length of the public hearing, Council deferred discussion of second reading for a week. I am asking you to advise whether the City should rescind second reading and schedule an opportunity to receive additional public input.

Due to the Second and Third Readings scheduled this coming Monday, time is of the essence in this enquiry

 

 Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Councillor Pam Bookham

 

141 West 14th Street

North Vancouver, BC

V7M 1H9

1-604-986-5560

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