Tag Archives: Delegation to Council

Updated:The Response (to our Delegation)

We previously posted the script of our Delegation before Council on Feb 22nd.  https://nvcityvoices.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/delegation-shipyards-growth-transparency-and-civic-engagement/.  We followed up with a letter to Mayor and Council requesting a response to our three questions presented.

Further to the reply from Mr. Tollstam, we have responded and our comments to each inquiry  follow:

RE: Your email dated February 23, 2016 to Mayor and Council re Follow up to Voices Delegation Feb 22

I have been requested by the Mayor to respond to your email of February 23, 2016 entitled “Follow up to Voices Delegation Feb 22”. Our reply to your inquiries is as follows:

1. Regarding the Shipyards/ waterfront/ lot 5 development: What has been spent, to what purpose, and what is still to come? In particular, with the museum out, what “arts and cultural uses” are envisioned for the Pipe Shop?’

The plans for the development of the Shipyards are still under development, and staff will bring the plans and costs to Council for approval. To the question of what has been spent to date, I believe the reconciliation statement for the Provincial Grant has been circulated to you previously. In regard to the Pipe Shop, the building has been leased temporarily to Quay Property Management. · This was done through an open call of proposals, and an extension to the original lease was provided until such time as a new use is determined. Document: 1369313-v1

Voices comment: Question 1 –

In other words, we’re being told, not a dime of City money has been spent to date on the Shipyards development. All expenditures have come out of the provincial grant intended for the new museum. We are dubious, but it seems we’ll have to wait and see what further information comes out. We also note that Mr. Tollstam is claiming the City does not have a plan for the future use of the Pipe Shop. Again, colour us dubious.

2. Regarding the revised RGS targets – why were an additional 6,000 units added to the original targets (as stated in the Regional Context Statement)?

The Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) estimates that the City of North Vancouver will grow by approximately 20,000 people between 2011 and 2041 . The RGS included an estimate of a minimum of 6,000 new dwelling units needed to accommodate this long-term growth.

The City’s Official Community Plan aligns with the RGS by providing opportunities for this growth to occur primarily in the Regional City Centre and on transit-accessible corridors. Residential units in these areas will have lower persons per dwelling unit than the Metro average and consequently a greater number of dwelling units are required to accommodate long term population growth. The City’s Regional Context Statement, which indicates how the OCP is aligned with regional priorities, estimates that approximately two thirds of the City’s growth will occur in the Regional City Centre (apartment-form housing) and includes a table indicating that approximately 10,500 new residential units are needed in the City Centre and transit accessible locations to accommodate anticipated population growth. These dwelling unit estimates are larger than the 6,000 estimated by Metro as they are based on the best available data on persons per dwelling unit in the City of North Vancouver.

Voices comment: Question 2

This does not answer our question, but just repeats the flawed reasoning that we have been disputing for several years.  The city’s justification for increasing the construction of new units is based on assuming an average of 1.7 persons per dwelling (down from their original projection of 2.2 persons per dwelling). Even if this is accurate, and isn’t just fudging the numbers to rationalize the current high-rise building boom, it means the city expects a significant number of these units will be occupied by just one person. Is that realistic? Does that sound like a diverse community that includes families?
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3. Regarding Public Input – many members of the public would like to know if it’s likely they will be allowed to speak if they come to Council. So far, it seems hit and miss with no explanation as to the reason to limit speakers. Meetings seems to be over quickly, so it doesn’t appear to be because of heavy agendas. If this is to be the policy, why not have the bylaw reflect it?

There are currently three opportunities for the public to provide input at Council meetings (public input period, delegations and public question period), which extend well beyond Council’s statutory obligations for public consultation. The purpose of Council meetings is to conduct City business regarding items on the agenda. Further, public input should be related to City business and matters within Council’s mandate. Quite often the public input received is off-topic, accusatory, repetitive, untrue, promotes goods and services and, at times, includes electioneering. Further, it is contrary to the intent of a Council meeting, which is to conduct the business of Council.

The current Council Procedure Bylaw limits the number of speakers during the Public Input Period to 5; however, Council can extend that number to accommodate any extra speakers that may sign up on the sign-up sheet. Since the July 7, 2015 Council meeting, there were 17 Council meetings with an opportunity for the Public Input Period. Of the 17 Public Input Periods there were 3 instances where all the speakers were not heard, 2 instances where no one requested to speak and in most instances there was 1 person requesting to speak. Allowing an unrestricted number of speakers during the Public Input Period makes agenda planning problematic, particularly when attempting to schedule an accurate time for commencement of Public Hearings and Public Meetings that require public notification or for the timing for delegations and presentations to be heard.

If a member of the public has a pressing issue or question to ask of Council, they always have the opportunity to provide their inquiry to the City Clerk’s office before 4:00 pm on the day of a Council meeting, and the City Clerk’s office will continue their current practice of delivering time-sensitive correspondence items to Council members prior to the meeting or on table at the meeting.

Further, several opportunities are available for members of the community and the public to contact elected officials and City staff. These include visiting City Hall during regular business hours, contacting a member of staff or Council by phone, scheduling a meeting with staff, the Mayor or a member of Council, submitting correspondence by way of mail, email or hand delivered to City Hall, attending public meetings, town hall meetings and/or open houses. All correspondence received is circulated to members of Council each week, so they receive new information on a regular basis.

Voices comment: Question 3 –
Again, this does not answer our question; it’s basically just a cut-and-paste repeat of the previous justifications for curtailing public input. Once again, our question – is a maximum of five speakers at Public Input going to be the firm policy from now on, even though the bylaw does not require it? – has not been answered. We have never advocated “allowing an unrestricted number of speakers”, and Mr. Tollstam would know that if he had paid attention to our delegation. We recognize there will be occasions when limiting the number is justified. All we are asking is for the criteria for enforcing the limit be explicitly stated. For example: on a night with a light agenda, if six people sign up to speak, what is the justification for denying the sixth person? And lastly, continuing to characterize citizen input as “off-topic, accusatory, repetitive, untrue” etc. is frankly insulting. Democracy is often messy.  If our elected representatives can’t take a few minutes of criticism once a week, they should probably find a different line of work.
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Regards,

A.K. Tollstam CAO

cc Mayor and Council

     Fred Dawkins

Delegation – Shipyards, growth, transparency and civic engagement

 Script of delegation to Council Feb 22 16

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My name is Fred Dawkins, here representing the community group North Van City Voices. We first appeared before you in 2012 with concerns about the rate of growth in our little City. We thought it time to remind you that we are still around and still have concerns.

We have three matters we wish to discuss tonight: the Shipyards development, the pace of development in general, and issues around transparency and civic engagement.

First in regards to the Shipyards development, specifically the Pipe Shop. Now that Council has decided against building the new museum on that site – a decision we very much regret — we want to address the $9 million that the provincial government gave the city for that purpose. Keep in mind that the grant specifically states that “in the absence of an NMC project this funding is to be used for purposes consistent with the spirit of the grant, such as the preservation of BC’s maritime heritage or other arts and cultural uses.”

Earlier today we received, as promised, Mr. Tollstam’s accounting of how that money has been allocated. Amazingly, almost all $9 million is gone, even though there’s no maritime centre, no museum, and as far as we can see, very little left in the plans that fits the definition of “arts and cultural uses.” Although I suppose some might call shopping a cultural use, so maybe retail development qualifies.

We note that the city originally promised matching funds of $2.5 million for the museum, contingent on the private fundraising. Interestingly, that’s the same amount that was taken out of the provincial grant and given to Presentation House –before council decided to nix the museum. One wonders whether pre-spending all that grant money played a role in the museum decision.

The itemized list also includes $3.2 million spent on site preparation, including soil compaction, which seems odd given the lack of a planned end use.

Anyway we thank Mr. Tollstam for providing this accounting, but it raises for us a number of questions about the Shipyards development in general. We have not seen a detailed accounting of city expenditures on the overall development for some time. A lot of the bits and pieces we’ve seen have been confusing, and the parameters seem to be shifting. Given all the money that has gone into remediation on Site 5 alone, we believe an update is appropriate. What has been spent, to what purpose, and what is still to come? In particular, with the museum out, what “arts and cultural uses” are envisioned for the Pipe Shop?

We look forward to the City’s reply at an early date.

Next, as we’re all aware, the City has been going through an unprecedented construction boom. Since 2011 – the baseline year for the Regional Growth Strategy – about 5,100 new residential units have been built, approved, or otherwise in the planning pipeline for the City. And yes, as you see, we continue to keep track. That’s an increase of more than 20% in just 5 years, and it means we’re already almost at the city’s 2041 Regional Growth Strategy Target of an additional 6,000 units – shown here on Page 2 of the city’s Regional Context Statement filed with Metro in 2014. Yet just 2 pages later in that same document the projection for 2041 is given as 10,620 additional units. That discrepancy has never been adequately explained – the proposed Moodyville development doesn’t come close to accounting for it – and it far exceeds the city’s original commitment to Metro.

To us these ever-expanding targets look less like prudently managed growth, and more like city staff trying to predict how far unfettered developer-driven densification might take us.

And we don’t doubt that assisted by this council, our development community is capable of meeting those inflated targets. Currently we’re looking at significant tower developments proposed for 13th & 14th at Lonsdale, and Site 8 on Esplanade, both asking for density beyond the OCP limits. Then there’s whatever might be in store for Site 5 now that the museum has been ruled out. We’ve heard that a mixed commercial/residential development proposal might be coming forward. So – more condos? Finally, we’re seeing in the planned Moodyville redevelopment the potential for maximized density – about 800 additional units according to the revised OCP, quite possibly more. And we note that new infill housing from secondary suites and laneway homes is not included in the city’s numbers.

In short, in our little North Shore enclave we’re building residential capacity at a rate far beyond what the regional planners have said is necessary to accommodate our anticipated population growth. And we have to ask – why the rush? What is driving this building boom? Who is asking for it?

Current residents aren’t asking for it. During the recent City Shaping process, except for a group of Moodyville property owners focused on their area, no one was asking for ramped-up density. People mostly asked for affordability. And adding more high-rise units, whether condo or rental, does nothing to help affordability, we’ve seen that time and again. Meanwhile traffic keeps getting worse, promised transit improvements are nowhere in sight, and recreational amenities like the promised Harry Jerome rebuild sit at the bottom of the priority list.

So if residents aren’t asking for it, and regional growth strategy doesn’t justify it, what need is this condo construction boom serving? We think the answer can be found in the recent media coverage of what many are calling the Lower Mainland’s real estate crisis. With rising land values driven largely by speculators, condo developers are pushing for opportunities to build more product, to supply a demand that to a large degree is created by investors.

The problem with speculative bubbles is they eventually burst, leaving a lot of damage behind. Now, we realize there is not much this Council can do to deflate the bubble. But you can refrain from making it worse. When the next round of tower proposals comes forward, don’t encourage density bonusing, which will just add to the glut.

The ink on our new OCP is barely dry. We ask that you not collaborate with developer efforts to get around the limits that the community has agreed to so recently.

Finally, we once again express our concern over this Council’s attitude toward public input. Five years ago there was a lot said in this chamber about the need to stimulate public engagement in the governance of the city – remember the Civic Engagement Task Force, and the worrying about low voter turnout? Yet since then we feel things have gone in the opposite direction.

The weekly Public Input period used to be open to all citizens who wished to address Council. If more than 5 signed up to speak, they were routinely allowed. Now a majority on Council – the same 4 members each time — has decided to consistently restrict speakers to no more than 5. Our group has asked each of these council members by email to clarify why they feel this curtailment is necessary. But none have shared with us their individual criteria for doing so. The three council members who replied to our query all said essentially that they are just following the bylaw. We say that is evading the issue. The bylaw allows them to restrict speakers, it does not require them to. It’s their choice. And they have chosen to limit input, for reasons they seem reluctant to disclose.

This may not be a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is symptomatic of a larger issue. We hear many in the community express frustration at what they see as a lack of openness from this Council. People feel shut out. They feel that everything is preordained. Petitions are discounted, email replies – if made at all – are too often vague and unresponsive. New and restrictive rules on public submissions to council – all the things you can’t talk about, how early you have to get your material in, and so on – seem designed to discourage rather than encourage engagement. And worst of all, we continually hear the suspicion that too many important decisions are being made behind closed doors. That, to some members of council, criticism and opposing views are nuisances to be shrugged off, not feedback to be seriously considered.

Many people have contacted us asking why three members of Council even bother to show up for meetings given the propensity for block voting that can be predicted in advance.

Your worship, councillors, we ask that you rethink your approach. We believe you are sincere in wanting to keep an open mind on the issues you consider – but too often, it doesn’t look that way, due to a lack of transparency. Continuing in this manner will only add to the cynicism we see growing in our community. It’s not good for democracy.

Thank you for your time.

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Delegation to Council Apr 28/14 re CityShaping

Following is the script for our delegation to Council last night:

NVCV delegation to NV City Council, 28 April 2014

My name is Fred Dawkins, I live on West 19th in the City of North Vancouver, and I’m here on behalf of North Van City Voices to discuss City Shaping and the draft Official Community Plan.

First, we wish to commend this Council for extending the public input into the draft OCP by adding four more town hall meetings to the process. The turnout at these well-advertised meetings was impressive, the last one was standing room only. And residents had a lot to say about the future of their community, which I’ll get to in a moment.

First, though, let’s recap how we got to this point with City Shaping.

In July 2011 the City of North Vancouver signed on to the Greater Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. As part of the strategy’s projections of anticipated growth in the region, the City set population targets up to 2041, setting a goal of 1.3% growth per year for the next 20 years,

Also in 2011, the City launched the City Shaping process to involve the community in developing a new OCP. In our view, the process was one long sales pitch for increased density as the answer to all of our aspirations. We were told the RGS population targets were less an estimate than a commitment we had to achieve. And with no space to expand outward, our little city had to increase density. But that was OK, we were told, because higher density would be better for the environment, would improve transportation, enhance economic development, support more community amenities, make housing more affordable and our streets safer and more vibrant, and so on. As we have stated in previous presentations, all of those assumptions are at least debateable.

Nevertheless, this scenario was pitched at us through public workshops that basically steered us toward the inevitability of a much denser community. The number of people who participated in these workshops or submitted online comments was relatively small. It was not a representative sampling.

Only in this last phase of public consultation – the series of town hall meetings – was there any large-scale public feedback. This was when city residents appeared to wake up to what is being proposed, and came out to learn more. Attendance at all 4 meetings was far beyond anything we saw in the earlier workshops.

And those of you on Council who sat in on these gatherings heard speaker after speaker expressing concerns about the prospect of rapid densification. People expressed concerns about traffic, lack of adequate transit, the loss of views and green space, civic infrastructure lagging behind the pace of development, lack of adequate parks and community amenities, and many other quality of life issues.

We trust that planning staff was paying attention, and that they will bring forward an amended draft OCP that is more in tune with the desires of residents than the last draft we saw.

What else has been happening while we have been working on a new OCP? Lots of construction, especially, lots of new condos. From the mid-2011 baseline, we have seen a raft of new residential and mixed-use projects built, started, approved, or in the pipeline — to the extent that, adding up all the new housing units built or on the way, we already have enough to surpass our 2021 RGS growth target and are heading toward the 2031 target. All this under the existing OCP, although it should be noted that 15 of these projects required Council to approve an OCP amendment.

So the obvious question – with all this rapid growth occurring under the existing OCP, why does the draft OCP propose a further increase in allowable density, in virtually every part of the city? In what way is this accelerated growth needed?

Let’s be clear – we recognize that the city will grow. We’re not opposed to all development. Prudent, managed growth, with services and amenities keeping pace with the population, is what we advocate. That’s not what we’re seeing now, and not what the current draft OCP is pointing to. Instead, we are seeing a headlong rush toward far greater density and crowding than we can handle as a

community. We’ve seen our light industrial land eroded. With all the development sprouting up along the Marine Drive corridor – including the District part – traffic on that key artery is getting worse by the week, and many of those units are not even occupied yet. There’s hardly a block in the city without a “condos for sale” or “commercial space to lease” sign – isn’t it possible we’re building too fast?

The draft is long on platitudes about livable communities and vibrant streetscapes, but where are the plans for ensuring amenities and infrastructure keep up with population growth? Public art and ferris wheels are nice, but their lack is the least of our problems. What’s to be done about traffic? Where will our new parks come from? What’s to be done about Harry Jerome and our overall shortage of recreation facilities? How will an east-west transit corridor do anything to help commuters who have to leave the North Shore for work every day across our three overloaded crossings? What’s the strategy for preserving our stock of affordable rental housing, which we all know is at risk to future condo development?

We recognize that ultimately the OCP is only a guide. It is supposed to provide residents some assurance about the future, but in reality council can override it at any time – as I mentioned, 15 times in less than 3 years, including almost all the major condo projects. Whatever OCP we end up with, what’s really needed is leadership from a council with a long-term vision of what city residents need. Not piecemeal, ad hoc development driven by the latest developer to come to you with a proposal. You are in charge. We urge you to take a step back and reconsider the pace of development in our city, for the sake of all the people who live here instead of in the West End or Metrotown, because we love this special place.

I conclude with a question for you, Your Worship, to direct to the appropriate staff member. Is the planning staff now revising the draft OCP to reflect the public input provided by those town hall meetings? Will we see actual changes in the new draft?

[If not, why not, or when?]

Thank you.

This was followed by some discussion, and information that a revised draft of the OCP will be presented to Council next Monday, May 5th.

Video link is available at:

http://www.cnv.org/Your-Government/Council-Meetings/Council-Videos/2014-Council-Videos/April-28-2014

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Delegation to Council Feb 04 2013 re Public Hearing

Public hearing best practices:

NVCV Delegation to North Vancouver City Council 4 February 2013

My name is Fred Dawkins, I live at ……..in the City of North Vancouver. I’m speaking on behalf of North Van City Voices, a group made up of citizens from every corner of our City – East to West, North to South.  These comments are directed to the staff report on Public Hearing Best Practices, which is on tonight’s agenda.

We agree that the city’s public hearing process can be improved. There are good suggestions in the staff’s report, but in our view they don’t go far enough.

A public hearing offers residents an opportunity to participate in open, public discussion on important civic issues. It’s their chance to have their views considered by Council, and it’s Council’s chance to gauge public opinion on the issue, and perhaps get the benefit of new information or fresh perspectives.

So the process must be fair, unbiased and transparent, and also be seen to be fair, unbiased and transparent, based on rules that are clear and consistently applied.

It has been council’s practice to ask each speaker to state his or her name and address before speaking. We believe this should continue to be a requirement. The Nov. 19 public hearing for Onni’s 13th & Lonsdale application was the first time in our collective memory that speakers were not required to give this information. As a result, some people questioned whether many of the speakers were from outside the city, and the legitimacy of the hearing came into question – rightly or wrongly, the appearance of a fair process was undermined.

The staff report acknowledges that all 16 surveyed municipalities – and this includes both the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver — require speakers to give their name and address. Yet citing unexplained “privacy concerns”, staff recommends we become the only one to waive this requirement. In our view privacy should not trump a fair and open process. Speaking to Council at a public hearing is a public act, on the public record, in the public interest. Anonymity is not appropriate and should not be expected. People from outside the city certainly should have the right to speak if they wish, but council needs to know whether they live, work or pay taxes in this city, and therefore have a real stake in the outcome. We strongly advocate making this requirement part of our public hearing process, and for the mayor as chair to enforce it.

Regarding speaker sign-up sheets, we agree with option 1A in the staff report: that sign-up sheets continue to be used for all public hearings, that staff monitor them but only in cases where a large turnout is expected, and that the sheets continue to ask to include the speaker’s address, although we agree that this information – on the sign-up sheets, that is – does not have to be mandatory. 

We agree that signing up in person should be the rule, to prevent one person signing up a multitude of people in advance.  We agree that putting out the signup sheet 1½ hours before the start of the public hearing should be enough lead time.  Should this time ever be changed, please post it on the website well in advance of the public hearing.  Again, clear and consistent rules.

On adjourning public hearings that run late, we support keeping the current practice. However we recognize the problem of requiring the Mayor to state, on the spot, exactly when the hearing will re-convene, which might be difficult logistically. It might be good practice, in cases where a large turnout of speakers is expected, to have a fallback position already prepared – that is, a tentatively scheduled second day of hearing, to be used if necessary.

We have heard the clerk state at the start of the public hearing that petitions and mail have been received.  However they are generally not included in the transcript of the hearing. Some municipalities, such as West Vancouver, list all related correspondence received, including petitions, so they’re part of the public record. We think this would be a good addition to the City’s process.

While we’re on the subject of improving processes, we would also ask that you revisit the recommendations of the Civic Engagement Task Force, particularly the suggestion that the agenda – with linked documents — be available earlier than the current practice of Fridays about 4pm. If other municipalities can have their agenda posted by end of day Thursday, surely we can too.

So, in summary, we ask that council adopt the following best practices for public hearings:

  • Require all speakers to state their name and address before speaking
  • With regard to sign-up sheets, implement recommendation 1A from the staff report
  • Be prepared for the possibility that a hearing may need to be adjourned for continuation at a later date, by tentatively scheduling in advance a second date
  • Include all related correspondence in the published transcript of the hearing

Thank you for your time.

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