Monthly Archives: November 2017

Vote Manipulation at our local Council?

At the City of North Van Council Meeting on November 20th, the decisions on three items were deferred until “all Council members were present”.

  1. Street and traffic bylaw amendment (crosswalk use by cyclists and street occupancy permits).
  2. Harbourside zoning bylaw (public hearing).
  3. 150 E 8th rezoning bylaw.

Regarding Harbourside, the acting Mayor stated at the end of the hearing that ‘the bylaw will be considered on December 4th when a full Council is expected to be present’.

150 E. 8th is a rezoning application to be referred for a public hearing, but Councillor Keating immediately made a deferral motion.

Outcome of the meeting?  More than 20 items briefly considered and meeting concluded in about an hour.  

None of the items was considered at last night’s meeting due to the absence of Councillor Buchanan.  Absent on the November 20th meeting were the Mayor and Councillors Bell and Buchanan.  

Question:  If a meeting is held and it would seem that the vote would likely fail, is it proper to wait two weeks for the items to be discussed?  Or is this manipulation of the vote?   To be discussed Dec 4th unless one of the Mayor’s team is absent?

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The Limits of Free Speech

The following article news4  was published in the Nov 15th issue of The Global Canadian, a new North Shore community newspaper, available at various locations (contact us for a list).

The Limits of Free Speech: When a citizen spoke to Mayor Mussatto:

AT A RECENT COUNCIL
MEETING, MAYOR DARRELL
MUSSATTO WELCOMED A
CITIZEN TO THE PODIUM BUT
HASTENED TO PULL OUT THE
RULE BOOK ON THE WHAT,
WHY AND WHEN OF SPEAKING
BEFORE THE COUNCIL.

GAGANDEEP GHUMAN
November 15, 2017
It’s a seemingly routine task that most
mayors and councillors are familiar with.
A speaker comes before the council, is
formally welcomed and allowed to speak
while politicians listen patiently. It doesn’t
matter if the speech is boring or irrelevant
or repetitive and it may not even matter if
the politicians are really listening or merely
pretending to do so. The idea matters, the
idea that you are being listened to by those
who have the power to shape your city. The
whole scene is an affirmation of democracy
and this political contract between the people
and politicians plays out in the villages,
towns and cities across the country.
It does play out in the City of North Vancouver
as well but a recent council meeting
could make anyone wonder if the spirit of
democracy is being squeezed out of even
this basic symbolic act of a citizen speaking
and the councillors listening. At a recent
council meeting, Mayor Darrell Mussatto
welcomed a citizen to the podium but
hastened to pull out the rule book on the
what, why and when of speaking before
the council.
“You spoke about development on the
second and the 16th (in October). Are you
speaking about development again? Are
you speaking about developers and development
again? You are allowed to speak
only once every three months on the same
issue. Well, you can’t speak about development.
You can speak about other things but
you are allowed only one topic every three
months. I know you come every week, but
you can’t say the same thing every week,”
he said, warning a speaker before him.
“I will speak and see how it goes,” the
man said.
“Yes, give it a shot,” the mayor said
laughing, and then reminding him again
about the rule.
“We have a rule. You have to speak
about something different. You can’t just
come back with the same thing,” he said
“It’s not the same,” the man insisted.
“It’s the same. It’s about developers
and my name will come up in the next 30
seconds and how bad I am. You can’t just
do it every week. You can do it once every
three months. Just in the future, you can
talk about one general issue every three
months, so you get the full two minutes
when it comes to development, but if you
wish to talk about something separate…
find a topic you haven’t talked about in the
last three months and then we would love
to hear from you,” Mussatto said.
Fred Dawkins of North Vancouver City
Voices says this kind of limitation only
serves to discourage public engagement.
“It’s clear that the mayor and his voting
bloc on council too often view citizen input
as an inconvenience, not a welcome sign of
an engaged public. It’s hard enough to get
people to engage in municipal affairs without
putting a lot of arbitrary restrictions on
their right to speak. If civic officials can’t
take being criticized in public for their decisions,
they shouldn’t be in politics,” he says.
The changes to the public input were
introduced after a heated debate in 2015
when a staff report suggested to council
the public input be done away with altogether
because the input was often accusatory,
repetitive and not relevant to the
topic being discussed. After hue and cry,
the council decided to keep the public input
period, but not without restricting it with
limits on the number of times one topic can
be discussed in three months. Other changes
also included limiting the numbers of
speaker to five unless there is a unanimous
vote to allow more speakers.
In fact, when he reminded the speaker
about the only-once-in-a-three-month rule,
the mayor seemed to be keeping a promise
of being strong in implementing the rules.
“You have to be respectful and play by the
rules and I will be firm,” he said back in
2015. “No member of council or public
can question the motives of the council.
They can’t question the motives. They can’t
express a negative opinion of the personality
or the character of the council member
and nor can they speak disrespectfully. I
will rule with a tougher hand,” he said.
Former councillor Bob Heywood says
the policy is on the slippery slope of public’s
right to freedom of speech, access to elected
officials, and bona-fide public input for
council to make its decisions.
“If this policy is being used to weed out
individuals that are against certain applications
or future decisions, then the policy
cannot withstand the test of “fair and
reasonable”. We don’t really know if all
persons and lobbying agencies are being
held to the same policy test. Perhaps it is
time for someone to challenge this policy,
maybe a review by the BC Ombudsman?”
Heywood says.
Former council candidate Amanda
Nichol says she feels the elected officials
used their position and power to change
policy to muzzle criticism.
“I feel like it might have been done to
censure particular individuals that a majority
of the council did not like, did not want to
hear from, and did not want those watching
council to hear from. It might lead one to
question, why? What, in two minutes, are
those individuals saying? How is it that the
questions, comments cannot just simply
be addressed and/or followed up on at a
future meeting?”
Former mayoral candidate Kerry Morris
says it’s wrong to limit speaker input
at council meeting to just five individuals,
and it’s wrong to limit the topics on which
anyone can speak, over and over again, if
that is what they choose to do.
Council watcher Cathy Lewis says there
have been several times that the speakers
have been interrupted and told they were
not allowed to speak on the same issue that
they brought up in the last three months.
“At most meetings, there are no more than
three speakers and many times no one
signs up to speak. Whether I think it is
fair? I think it is a change to the bylaw that
has muzzled the public from being heard,”
Lewis says.

It’s clear that the mayor and
his voting bloc on council
too often view citizen input
as an inconvenience, not a
welcome sign of an engaged
public. It’s hard enough to get
people to engage in municipal
affairs without putting a lot of
arbitrary restrictions on their
right to speak. ”
FRED DAWKINS
North Vancouver City Voices

What Goes Up …

Comment from Voices:  We heartily agree with this sentence in the following article from The North Shore News today:  “What Goes Up …”,  ‘We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.’  

We have calculated that over 7,000 new units have been added to the City of North Van since 2011 – and if you are searching for a new condo, or a rental – you will likely not find one to purchase under $500,000 and a rental under $1800.  That would be for 500 sq.ft.

From: http://www.nsnews.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-what-goes-up-1.23101123

Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster and the relationship between housing supply and affordability. It’s an unlikely trio that belongs to the realm of the mythical – at least, that’s the contention of a Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor who crunched 15 years of housing numbers and concluded Metro Vancouver has produced more than enough supply to meet demand. For every 100 new households, Metro Vancouver has built 119 new housing units, John Rose contends.

There will doubtless be sufferers of tower fatigue who will use the study as grounds for opposing every construction project. And it’s true supply has utterly failed to exert any gravity on the North Shore’s astronomical housing market. Over the past decade, benchmark home prices in North Vancouver and West Vancouver have risen 98 and 106 per cent.But even if Rose’s conclusions are correct and we do have enough physical houses, that still doesn’t mean we have an adequate housing supply. That’s largely because we’re burdened with a more than adequate supply of Airbnbs, empty homes, and speculators.

While the foreign buyers tax has helped, we still need senior levels of government to make a simple declaration: if you’re not going to live here then your money’s no good here. We also need our municipal governments to keep a closer eye on developers who walk in the front door preaching affordability and walk out the back door hawking luxury living.

Rose is slated to release his report this Friday. We hope all levels of government will examine it closely because for far too many trades workers, nurses, and teachers, the real myth is an affordable place to live on the North Shore.

 

North Shore Retail Headed for Shake-up

Some thoughts about Sears Capilano Mall from Elizabeth James (former contributing writer for the North Shore News et al):

NORTH SHORE RETAIL HEADED FOR SHAKE-UP IN 2018
The imminent loss of Sears Canada’s two-storey, 124,911 square foot anchor
store at Capilano Mall cannot help but send aftershocks throughout the North
Shore retail industry and beyond. Indeed, judging by other already-closed
small stores, the Mall atmosphere on a mid-November Saturday suggested
the New Year will usher in major changes as to where and how we shop for
the goods we need.
The reasons for Sears’ demise vary across the country. Locally, though, it is
easy to point to several factors that, for a decade or more, have contributed
to its decline and fall in this area.
The siting of Walmart at the other end of the mall and the increased
popularity of online shopping are two obvious factors.
Looming large, though, has to be the stubborn refusal to move with the times
on the part of Sears’ owners and management. They failed to refresh the
store’s product lines. They failed to adjust their price points on furnishings
and kitchen ware, electronics and other higher-budget items relative to the
easy-access presence of Walmart, Costco, Canadian Tire and IKEA.
Most of all, they failed customers and sta7 by not providing a more exciting
alternative to the same-old, humdrum shopping experience we saw at the
Capilano Mall outlet.
Retail 101: a store can get away with higher prices than its neighbours, but
only if it o7ers unique and/or higher quality products.
It boggles the mind that the 65 year old Sears Canada has been so lacking in
business acumen not to know that.
So what of the health of the mall itself? Does it have another “major” waiting
in the wings to replace Sears? Or do the tired surroundings and the delays in
@xing parking ramps, elevators and other such renovations presage a move
toward a total re-development of the 401,000 square foot prime real estate
site on Marine Drive. (If you don’t like that idea – keep tabs on CNV council!)
Traditionally, Canada’s retail industry has been a major contributor to the
country’s economy. Yet, as its population increased, the North Shore has
su7ered the domino losses of not only the nearby and much-loved Downtown
Woodwards in 1993, but also of West Vancouver’s Eaton’s Department Store
in 1999 and of the North Vancouver Zellers in 2013.
So what now for North Shore shoppers and those seeking retail jobs close to
home?
Well some of the answer lies within ourselves. Online and cross-border
shopping may be tempting, but if we adjust to that and send our retail
industry out of the country, Sears Canada will not be the only contributor to
unemployment; we will be too. And if people cannot find jobs, they cannot
buy goods and they certainly will not be paying the taxes governments need
to support all the services we demand.
Is that where retail is headed in 2018?

Can We Rebuild Affordability?

Comment from Voices:  Article in The Tyee today, we would urge the City of North Vancouver Council and Planning Department to take note of number 4 in the following article:  https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2017/11/20/Policies-To-Help-Afford-Vancouver/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=201117.

With the current rush in the City to build market rental housing:

4) Design for liveability, not profitability

This one’s not so much a policy as a rant: this city does not need any more luxury shoeboxes.

My last apartment search in Vancouver revealed an epidemic of new condo units clearly designed to appeal to investors, not to people looking for a home. We encountered countless “junior one-bedrooms” and “microsuites” commanding nearly $2,000 a month for less than 500 square feet, many with “extras” such as a “flex space” (read: a windowless sliver in the back of a closet) or high-end finishes like solid granite countertops and state-of-the-art appliances. While those features add to the resale value of a suite, they are absurd add-ons in a space so small you’d have to make an executive decision between having a couch or a kitchen table. A top-of-the-line kitchen is useless when you literally don’t have enough space to sit down for dinner.

The majority of new or renovated condos are painfully impractical for couples, much less families, and utterly unaffordable for singles. The really frustrating part is it wouldn’t take much to fix that. The difference between 500 and 700-square-feet when it comes to liveability is huge. Many people would happily take Ikea countertops and basic, functional appliances if it meant they’d also have room to breathe.

Perhaps the city needs some sort of liveability standard for new developments that would determine a minimum square footage (and a maximum price) that is realistic for an average family, couple or single person to occupy long term. Developers could then be tasked to stay between the lines — think of it as a fun design challenge. Or they could simply ask themselves: would I want to live in that?

Environmental Protection Notice

Comment from Voices:  We have been received the following notification from a CNV resident concerning a Seaspan (Vancouver Drydock) request to discharge air contaminants from their location at 203 East Esplanade:

‘We have become aware that Seaspan (Vancouver Drydock) has applied for a permit from Metro Vancouver to discharge air contaminants.  They have never had a permit and are applying to double the number of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and trace metals compared to their own 2016 report.  Seaspan self-reports and self-monitors. They have an air quality monitor on their property but Metro Vancouver does not have access to it.

Please send your input in as noted in the following and attached permit by DEC 6th

We also received the following comment from a resident in the area: 

‘In general, I think the shipyards have reached their capacity for airborne contaminants and are trying to apply to spew more into the air here in North Vancouver. 
With all the development of people living in the shipyards, I do not think that is fair or safe.  You can smell VERY strong chemical smells at times already.
North Vancouver also has deemed this area an Entertainment District, to sell to whomever to use(loud electronic music parties was one).
When you purchase here, none of the developers disclose this’ .
.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NOTICE
TAKE NOTICE THAT Vancouver Drydock Company Limited Partnership of 1800 – 510
West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 0M3 applies to the Metro Vancouver Regional
District (“Metro Vancouver”) pursuant to the Greater Vancouver Regional District Air Quality
Management Bylaw 1082, 2008 for a Permit.
1. Vancouver Drydock Company Limited Partnership has applied for a new permit to
discharge air contaminants from a dry dock facility located at Pier 94 – 203 Esplanade E.,
North Vancouver, BC V7L 1A1.

.
The purpose of this application is to request authorization to discharge air contaminants
from a dry dock with the primary business of vessel conversion, repair, maintenance and dry docking services.

.
Emission sources include: Two floating dry docks with surface preparation and painting
operations; one hut for surface preparation of small items; and one shed to crush used
paint cans for recycling.  link to full notice follows:

Vancouver_Drydock_Company_Limited_Partnership_1087-Environmental_Protection_Notice

North Van Citizens Action Assn. Meeting

We have previously posted information about the new Citizen’s Group in North Van. (https://nvcityvoices.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/new-citizens-group/). 
Following is a notice about an upcoming meeting:  
.
Open Meeting of the North Vancouver Citizen Action Association “NVCAA” 
7:30 pm, Thursday November 23rd 
Larson Elementary School Gym (2605 Larson Rd) 
 
AGENDA
1. Update on activities and plans 
2. Call for new members and volunteers
 
 Anyone interested in becoming more informed and engaged in the upcoming elections for North Vancouver City Council is welcome.  
.

NVCAA-MeetingNotice