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North Van reunification study on 2018 district ballot

From the North Shore News today, passed by District of North Van Council on July 9th:

More than electing a new council this fall, District of North Vancouver voters are being asked to formally declare whether their new government should support a study into North Vancouver amalgamation.

District council voted unanimously Monday night on a non-binding ballot question intended to test whether there is true mandate for reunification. The question that will appear on the Oct. 20 election ballot reads:

“Do you support the establishment and funding, not to exceed $100,000, of an advisory body comprised jointly of residents of the City of North Vancouver and residents of the District of North Vancouver to investigate the costs, benefits and potential implications of reunifying the two municipalities?”

Council’s vote follows the release of survey results last month that found overwhelming support from residents in both North Vancouvers on whether the two “should jointly investigate the true costs and benefits of amalgamation” – 91 per cent support by current district residents and 82 per cent support by city residents.

“We have to get it into the hands of the people. We cannot leave it in the hands of politicians that are making decisions in a room without windows. This is an opportunity to open a window,” said Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn.

But, while the district may be ready to pop the question, the city’s council will still have to be talked into courtship, Coun. Robin Hicks cautioned.

“If the city doesn’t open their books, spending any amount of money is an entire waste of time,” he said. “In order to go ahead, both municipalities should be totally committed to it because the negotiations and the … integration of operations, policies and financial arrangements are very complex.”

With the exception of Coun. Don Bell, the current city council has shown no interest in the latest overtures from the district towards reunification. City Mayor Darrell Mussatto said the district was being unneighbourly by conducting the survey and forging ahead without first meeting with city council directly.

District Coun. Roger Bassam, however, pointed out it will be up to the next city council sworn in after the election to determine how much the city bureaucracy helps or hinders the work of the citizen advisory body.

“I remain very hopeful the political leadership in the city will sincerely engage in this process and support the residents of the city and district as they study the subject. I recognize that even if they do not support amalgamation themselves, hopefully they will at least respect the will of the city residents and support this examination thoroughly,” he said.

The city was carved out of the district in 1907 when a group of property speculators petitioned the province for a new municipality that would be cheaper to service than the sprawling district, which, at the time, went from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove.

The vote passed 5-0. Coun. Lisa Muri and Mayor Richard Walton were absent from the meeting.

Source: North Van reunification study on 2018 district ballot

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Donald Trump is not your Mayor

The following was recently submitted to The Global Canadian (not yet published):

Commentary by Fred Dawkins, North Van City Voices

In the last municipal election, in 2014, roughly three-quarters of North Shore voters did not vote.

The turnout ranged from a paltry 23 per cent in the District of North Vancouver to 28 per cent in the City of North Vancouver, with West Vancouver coming in at 27 per cent. By contrast, the turnout for the most recent provincial election was about 60 per cent – more than double the municipal vote.

Political scientists have advanced a number of theories as to why this is. Probably it’s a combination of factors. Many people feel disengaged from municipal politics – they don’t follow the issues between elections, so don’t know how they should vote when the election comes around. Many don’t see the municipal issues as important, while others are cynical about how business is done at City Hall and don’t feel their vote will change anything.

There’s an information gap too. Most candidates for council are unknown to anyone but their family and friends, and mainstream media coverage of municipal issues and candidates is miniscule compared with coverage of provincial and federal politics.

My unscientific reading of the situation is that, thanks to cable news and social media, the average North Shore voter is more engaged in U.S. politics than in what’s happening in their own back yard. Everyone has an opinion about Donald Trump; not many even know who their mayor is, let alone what he or she stands for.

What it comes down to is, in municipal politics, people perceive that the stakes are low. The majority is okay with leaving the electoral choice to the few people who care, because after all, what’s the worst that can happen if the “wrong” people get elected to Council.

Well, if you are becoming increasingly irritated and inconvenienced by the unending traffic snarls on our major North Shore routes, this is one of those “worst things”.

Four years ago, City of North Vancouver voters were offered a choice between an organized bloc of candidates who advocated a rapid build-up of residential development, and a number of independent candidates who called for a more careful, measured approach to growth. Then a relatively small number of votes (remember, 28 per cent total turnout) elected a pro-developer council, dominated by candidates who received financial backing from the developers. The building boom accelerated, fueled by Official Community Plan amendments and density bonuses.

Now here we are. And it’s not over yet – the legacy of our developer-friendly City government will be felt for years to come, with several major developments still under construction. If you think traffic is bad now, just wait till all those new condos and townhouses are completed and the hundreds of additional residents join the daily commute.

Feel engaged yet?

The irony is, I’m preaching to the converted. If you are reading this community newspaper, you’re probably already among the relative minority who follow the local issues and will likely get out and vote this fall.

To you, I make this request – please talk it up with your friends and neighbours who may not be as engaged in North Shore issues. When they complain about the traffic, point out that our city councils are the ones who allow runaway development while doing almost nothing to ease the stress on our commuter routes and civic infrastructure. Make sure they know an election is coming, and unless they want four more years of this (or worse), they should read up on the candidates in their community newspaper, and make plans to vote for the ones who haven’t got us into this mess.

You might also point out that because of the relatively small numbers, their single vote has a lot more impact than it does in provincial and federal elections. And a short walk to the voting booth can make a big difference in their quality of life.

Iconic reminder of railway history is being pushed from place to place in North Vancouver | The Global Canadian

From the Global Canadian:  for those wondering where our PGE Station is:

A rare railway structure dating back to 1913 lies forgotten and abandoned as a new glitzy city shapes up at the Foot of Lonsdale. The iconic reminder of BC’s railway history and pioneer spirit was temporarily moved to a city-owned vacant lot on Alder Street to make way for the new Polygon Gallery and other buildings at the Foot of Lonsdale in 2014.

This ‘designated municipal heritage building’ was supposed to be back to the Foot of Lonsdale in 2015. Three years later, this seminal structure lies neglected and forgotten by a council too focussed on developing and reshaping the city. A study by a city consultant even suggested the PGE building could be converted into an ice cream shop or coffee shop in efforts to keep it on the waterfront, but that never happened. Those who value history may have to wait another few years before the council decides what it will do with the PGE building.

Communications manager for the City of North Vancouver, Connie Rabold, said council decided in 2014 that the relocation of PGE Station be referred to the Waterfront Park Master Plan process, which is scheduled for 2020. The abandoned building is a painful sight for former journalist John Kendrick, whose accompanying picture documents the council’s broken promise on the building. “It seemed to have been conveniently forgotten and that is certainly no way to treat a key part of our community’s heritage,” Kendrick said.

“This iconic piece of North Van’s history has been getting treated like this for decades.  For the longest time, it sat on the grass in Mahon Park behind Burdett stadium (where nobody much knew what it was), being used as an annex to the North Van Museum, until it was finally decided to move it back to the its original site at bottom Lonsdale.  As we now know, that wasn’t to last very long. It’s now sitting in a lonely corner of the municipality overlooking the grain elevators, where nobody sees it.”

Railway historian and archivist at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish said the railway operated from the Foot of Lonsdale to Horseshoe Bay from 1914 until 1929. He said the old station has been moved several times since 1929 and faces an uncertain future considering the frenzied pace of development happening in the City of North Vancouver.

“CNV is having trouble keeping up with the development happening at the moment and there are hundreds of old homes being torn down in the name of progress. History and one old station are way down on the list of priorities. Look at how the North Vancouver Museum has been pushed around from one place to other over the years. It looks like they might now have a permanent home but it won’t be ready until 2020,” he said.

According to the Canadian Register of Historic Places, a resource funded by the federal government, the building’s heritage value is associated with its location in Lower Lonsdale, the ‘earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet.’

“The railway had an important role in the economic growth of North Vancouver, providing a link to the resources of the interior of the province as well as passenger services to Horseshoe Bay and West Vancouver. The streetcar, ferry to Vancouver and PGE railway all converged at the south foot of Lonsdale Avenue, the major transportation hub on the North Shore. The PGE station serves as a reminder to the area’s historic significance.”

For Kendrick and Mills and many others City of North Vancouver citizens who value history, the PGE station is now a reminder of something entirely different: of shameless neglect and political amnesia.

News, analysis, opinion and features on North Shore, Canada and the World. Politics, culture, lifestyle, crime, entertainment, travel and local news. Coverage of British Columbia, North Shore, and Vancouver.

Source: Iconic reminder of railway history is being pushed from place to place in North Vancouver | The Global CanadianThe Global Canadian

City of North Vancouver advances Harry Jerome project

 

The City of North Vancouver is one massive step closer to getting its new Harry Jerome rec centre after council narrowly voted to advance an 802-unit Upper Lonsdale development project that will pay for it following a public hearing held Monday.

Council voted 4-3, despite hesitations from Couns. Linda Buchanan and Craig Keating, as well as Mayor Darrell Mussatto, to advance the development of the Harry Jerome neighbourhood lands that will see Darwin Properties build one 30-storey tower and one 26-storey tower in addition to three six-storey buildings and one five-storey building between 21st and 23rd streets along Lonsdale Avenue.

Darwin will agree to pay the city $183 million to lease the land for a period of 99 years, with the funds going towards paying for the new Harry Jerome recreation centre project estimated to cost $210 million.

“This is a good deal for the city,” said Coun. Rod Clark. “I’ve been pushing for leasing of city-owned lands for 15, 20 years.”

More than 40 local residents addressed council during Monday’s public hearing, with a near even split between those in favour of the project and those opposed.

Many who spoke out against the project rallied against the loss of nearby Norseman Field, which will be cleared to make way for the new rec centre, pending approval.

But, Clark noted, Darwin’s proposal accounts for loss of local green space with plans to extend nearby Crickmay Park south along Lonsdale to 21st Street as well as weaving the Green Necklace trail network through the development area.

“Much has been made at this table about what we’re getting in the way of trades between losing Norseman Park and Mickey McDougall Field and what the new project will bring,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a change, but you’re going to have open space and it will be public accessible.”

Darwin’s 802-unit proposal includes 486 units of market housing and 124 units of market rental, as well as 13 units that will be devoted to affordable rentals and another 99 units earmarked for seniors in need of assisted living. In addition, the proposal also includes a child-care centre with 37 spaces and 80 housing units that the city can allocate to a non-profit organization of its choosing.

Local resident Linda Sullivan, who spoke at the public hearing, praised Darwin’s proposal for offering a variety of housing options.

“Moving away from family in North Vancouver is now becoming a necessity rather than a choice,” Sullivan said. “I’m excited at the prospect that my sons could come back to North Vancouver.”

But Coun. Keating said that a rec centre with a curling rink and 50-metre swimming pool was excessive and argued the community shouldn’t have to pay for it by losing park space and adding unwanted density, referring to the proposed Harry Jerome rec centre as more of an “elite sport lollapalooza.”

“Where’s the District of North Vancouver? They just finished building a new recreation centre. Did they get a 50-metre pool?” he mused. “We got to carry the cost with that, and more specifically this neighbourhood has to carry the cost of that because they’re the ones who are going to have all this new traffic, all this new density, all these new buildings in that spot.”

Coun. Buchanan observed that Darwin’s proposal was the “single largest development that we’re going to see along the Lonsdale corridor,” and while she approved of the project’s community amenities, she balked at the potential costs.

“What we started out with was saying we wanted a community recreation centre, we’ve now got a regional centre. … How much is this community prepared to pay?” she said. “We’ve had housing projects that have come forward that have given us far greater benefits to supply housing and people around this table have refused it.”

Retired school teacher Rosemary Swinton worried the community wouldn’t be able to handle an influx of new people as increased density lured families to the area.

“You have 37 units available for child care. In a building of these sizes, this is totally inadequate. I would suggest that the developers look carefully at this because daycare is a major problem for young parents,” she said, adding that a lack of schools in the Lonsdale area could create challenges for families as well. “What are parents to do if both parents work? How do they get their children to school?”

Following Monday’s public hearing, council voted on a number of official community plan amendments that would allow the project to proceed. Darwin originally proposed building a pair of 28-storey towers, but agreed to instead build one 30-storey on the project’s north side and one 26-storey tower at the southern side following discussion that variances in height would create a more pleasing skyline.

Couns. Clark, Holly Back, Don Bell and Pam Bookham voted in favour of the proposed amendments, with Couns. Buchanan, Keating and Mayor Mussatto opposed.

Source: City of North Vancouver advances Harry Jerome project

City of North Van council sends Harry Jerome project to public hearing (NS News)

Source: City of North Van council sends Harry Jerome project to public hearing

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Which is stronger: your desire for a new Harry Jerome rec centre or your aversion to a pair of 28-storey towers?

That’s the question facing City of North Vancouver residents following council’s decision Monday night to advance an 802-unit Upper Lonsdale proposal to public hearing.

If approved, Darwin Properties would build two 81-metre-tall towers as well as a trio of six-storey residential buildings and a five-storey commercial building on the patch of land occupied by the current Harry Jerome rec centre, the Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre, and Norseman Field. Pending council’s approval, Darwin would pay the city $183 million to lease the land for 99 years. Much of that money could go towards the new $210-million Harry Jerome rec centre project.

Council voted 4-2 to push the project forward despite the vociferous objections of Coun. Craig Keating, who said the community did not ask for a rec centre with a 50-metre pool or a curling rink.

“We’re actually carrying the freight for the two other districts who just can’t get it together to fund the things that their citizens want,” he said, suggesting the districts of North and West Vancouver are: “too profligate or too cheap to fund their obligations.”

The project is slated to include a medical office building, restaurant, grocery store, and a child-care facility totalling 22,700 square feet of retail and 73,500 square feet of office space. The project’s floor space ratio – which measures total floor space against the size of the lot – is 2.5. That density was: “never asked for and never imagined,” Keating said.

Keating also noted that council declined to include a pool in the John Braithwaite Community Centre – a fact Coun. Pam Bookham also pointed out.

“That to me argues the greater need for a pool (at Harry Jerome),” she said.

Responding to Keating’s argument that the new Harry Jerome rec centre will end up serving the entire North Shore, Bookham noted that North Shore residents seeking recreation frequently cross municipal borders. “If it can be enjoyed by others, so be it,” she said.

Council’s support of dense highrises in recent years has necessitated a major rec centre, according to Bookham.

“We are building more multi-unit housing, the units are smaller, people who are occupying those units need spaces like recreation centres and parks in order to make life on the North Shore livable.”

Coun. Linda Buchanan suggested the current rec centre plans are too grand for the area.

“This is not a community centre,” she said.

Despite her opposition, Buchanan praised aspects of Darwin’s proposal, which includes 80 housing units to be allocated to a non-profit organization of the city’s choosing, a child-care centre with 37 spaces, and an extension of Crickmay Park along Lonsdale Avenue to East 21st Street. The development would also include 486 units of market housing, 124 market rental units, 99 units for seniors in assisted living and 13 affordable rentals.

“It’s going to crush this community with the amount of density,” Buchanan said.

The 28-storey towers are a way to maintain green space, according to Coun. Holly Back.

“Instead of going short and fat, I like to go tall and skinny,” she said. “It’s hard to count how many storeys they really are once they’re up in the air.”

Coun. Don Bell took the opposite view, suggesting it would make more sense to spread the density over the site. But despite his misgivings about the 28-storey towers, Bell voted in favour, noting that heights could be reduced following the public hearing as long as the development’s density doesn’t increase.

The project requires several amendments to the official community plan to change land use designations and maximum building heights. Currently, the ceiling on the site is 18 storeys.

Bell also stressed the need to move forward with replacement of the Harry Jerome rec centre, suggesting that keeping the current pool warm and the ice frozen will cost the city “substantial monies” in the future.

The original Harry Jerome rec centre was built when the city’s population was around 27,000, Coun. Rod Clark pointed out, noting the city’s population has doubled since then.

“This council in the main has supported incredible increases in density up and down Lonsdale, to the benefit of the development community,” he said. “Here’s an instance where we’re benefiting the citizens of the city.”

However, Clark added that council needs to maintain an open mind during the public hearing. “If they come in here swinging a bat saying: ‘We don’t want more than 18 storeys,” well, I guess that’s what we have to consider. And if that’s the case, we won’t have enough money to do Harry Jerome.”

Darwin’s development is interdependent with the new rec centre. The final phase of Darwin’s development isn’t set to go under construction until the new rec centre is open for business, ensuring there’s no disruption in rec centre service.

The public hearing is scheduled for June 18.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto did not attend the meeting.

So you want to become a councillor? Here’s a step-by-step guide | The Global CanadianThe Global Canadian

News, analysis, opinion and features on North Shore, Canada and the World. Politics, culture, lifestyle, crime, entertainment, travel and local news. Coverage of British Columbia, North Shore, and Vancouver.

Source: So you want to become a councillor? Here’s a step-by-step guide | The Global CanadianThe Global Canadian

Spending limits announced for North Van, West Van civic campaigns

from the North Shore News today:

Candidates in the upcoming October civic elections on the North Shore will be running leaner election campaigns this time around and getting by with fewer glossy pamphlets and paid helpers.

Elections B.C. released dollar figures for new expense limits for municipal campaigns this week, which set out the maximum amount candidates can spend in an effort to get themselves elected.

The expense limits, brought in under the last provincial government, will be felt most acutely in the City of North Vancouver, where the two mayoralty candidates both spent vastly more than will be allowed under the new rules in the 2014 civic election.

The new expense limits are based on population, so vary between municipalities.

 

In the City of North Vancouver, candidates running for mayor will now be limited to spending $36,348 – about one-third of the approximately $96,700 spent by Mayor Darrell Mussatto in the last campaign and half the $79,200 spent by challenger Kerry Morris.

Council candidates will also have to make do with the beer-budget version of campaigning, with a spending limit of $18,368.

Both Coun. Linda Buchanan – who spent about $27,600 on her campaign – and Coun. Craig Keating – who spent $28,900 – spent over that limit in the previous election.

More significantly, however, this will be the first civic election since the new provincial government banned union and corporate donations and limited individuals to donations of $1,200.

During the last election, Mussatto, Keating and Buchanan all received sizable donations from a number of real estate developers, businesses and from unions including CUPE, which represents workers at North Vancouver city hall.

Individual donations are also limited to $1,200 under the new rules and can only be made by people who are B.C. residents and Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Candidates will also not be allowed to spend more than $2,400 of their own money on their election campaign.

During the last election, Mussatto received individual donations that were several times that size from the heads of two development companies, while Morris spent more than $70,000 of his own money on his campaign.

Spending and donation limits will be less of a factor elsewhere on the North Shore, but candidates in the districts of North and West Vancouver will also have to keep their campaign belts tightened.

Spending limits for District of North Vancouver mayoralty candidates is set at just under $53,963 while campaign spending by those vying for council seats will be about $27,335. Coun. Jim Hanson spent over that last time – about $28,300 – although the other candidates would have had no problem complying with the new limits.

In the District of West Vancouver, spending on a mayoralty election campaign has been capped at $30,841 while council candidates are limited to spending $15,564. Coun. Mary-Ann Booth spent more than that – about $22,300 – on her council campaign last time, as did the late councillor Michael Lewis, who spent $15,800.

Any candidate planning to skirt the regulations by having someone else pick up the tab will have to think again too: there are also new limits on what can be spent by third parties on advertising that endorses or promotes election candidates. Limits are $1,817 in the City of North Vancouver, $1,542 in the District of West Vancouver and $2,698 in the District of West Vancouver.

The campaign spending limits apply to the period Sept. 22 to Oct. 20. They also include goods and services purchased prior to that but used during the campaign.

In previous civic elections, there were no limits on how much money organizations could donate to a candidate’s campaign or how much candidates could spend, earning B.C. a Wild West reputation and leading to criticisms that those with deep pockets were having an undue influence on some councils.

Source: Spending limits announced for North Van, West Van civic campaigns