With regard to the Onni development, let us not be overly influenced by the outraged reaction of the company. The responsibility of the City Council is to the citizens of the community, not to a commercial enterprise. Even in the scaled-down version, the proposal far exceeds the density allowed by the Official Community Plan and Onni knows this full well. It has tremendous implications for a whole neighbourhood and would dominate the landscape. Furthermore, the trade-offs being offered as public amenities, while desirable, are truly modest in comparison to the potential benefit accruing to the developer. As for the ‘jobs-creating’ office space, this is a business venture and should be evaluated in that light.
But there are also important and much more fundamental questions that are beyond the scope of the present situation and go to the heart of our civic governance and democracy. First of all, the Official Community Plan, which is supposed to reflect the community’s understanding of how it is to be shaped, is in the process of being up-dated. Early feedback openly available in Stage II of the City Shaping project shows a high level of support for a low/slow approach to growth, the need for certainty and transparency in the awarding of density bonuses, a mix of housing options to foster inclusivity and equity, and preservation of our natural environment. So there is no mandate to disregard the existing plan until a new one is agreed on and in place. Doing so nurtures the perception that the wishes of the public are unimportant and that there is little room for public involvement in how our City is to evolve in the future.
Secondly, City Council must, on an urgent basis, begin to address the following:
– that the present regulations governing public hearings are inadequate to dispel the impression that it is relatively easy for interested and/or outside parties to stage-manage the proceedings;
– that the absence of firm policies and transparency regarding how density bonuses are to be arrived at encourages speculation that deals are made behind closed doors; and
– that the apparent lack of clear-cut rules governing disclosure of conflict of interest by members of Council with regard to how they engage in discussions of, and vote on, proposals for exceptions to the Official Community Plan undermines democracy and diminishes faith in our civic institutions.