Sunday, February 18, 2018

Parks - Referendum vs "Alternate Approval Process"

Most District residents "know" that most of the parks in North Vancouver District were given status by referenda and require another referenda to remove their park status. Over 30 parks in NV District have "dedicated by referendum" status with 4 referenda passed in the election of 1996 and 15 more in the 1999 election.

However  that's NOT the view of District who believes that that only applies to the entire park and NOT to portions of it.

This issue came to the public eye due to a motion at the January 29th DNV Council meeting to apply an "alternate approval process" to de-dedicate a trail in Kirkstone Park to build a road where a trail currently exists.

"Alternate approval process" is a form of "negative billing" where District gives itself the right to waive a referendum unless a petition signed by 10% of the electorate is received by the required date.

1st, 2nd and 3rd readings were given to the motion which means that this parks de-dedication will come about UNLESS a petition with 5962 votes is received at District Hall by March 12th.

Because the first three readings were done on January 29th with no advance public notice this will be the only time this will appear on the agenda. Since the public can only speak at Council on non-agenda items at the discretion of the Mayor, Mayor Walton is able to prevent any public input on this matter at Council if he chooses.

During the Council discussion on the proposal it was claimed the cost of staging a referendum would be "too expensive". The referendum dedicating this park was held side by side with the 1999 election which elected the Mayor and Council. Any "expense" was part of the election.

Does anyone reading this not know that 2018 is an election year?

The public is entitled to ask "why the need for haste on this matter"?

The only possible reason why this road might be quickly needed would be to expedite the Mosaic Emery Place re-development proposal - but this proposal while it has had several public meetings has not come to Council yet for first reading! Anyone who follows municipal affairs knows it is extremely unusual for a major project to take less than 6 months from first reading to "shovel ready" - so why the haste?

The most likely reason for the "negative billing" "Alternate Approval Process" route is that District fears an outraged public might vote it down in a genuine referendum.

But that's a view Council has no right to hold - when the Council does first reading they have a legal and moral obligation to view the proposal with all the facts in plain view - maybe it's a great proposal maybe it isn't - but at this stage of the process this is not something Council can legitimately judge.

5962 with a 5 week window to collect that many names. Does that sound fair orreasonable to you?

One more point: District will only accept paper petitions on their form. These can be obtained at District Hall @ 355 West Queens. No online signatures or non-District petition forms will be accepted.

The voting public need to keep in mind that this "negative billing" process can be done with ANY District park and there are few neighborhood parks that could hope to get 5962 votes in 3-5 weeks.

While I'm sure Council would deny any intention to do so, using this "alternate" process all NV District parks could be de-dedicated without referendum one by one. While I'm sure their intentions are pure is this really a power we want in the hand of our elected officials?

If this passes the voting public will need to remember what has been done and remind the Mayor and Council with their ballots that this kind of end run around the referendum requirement is not OK and that we the people do not approve!


Lyle Craver said...

Follow-up to the Kirkstone Park story:

On February 14th DNV posted to at the very bottom of the home page (you have to scroll down to see it) the documents on the Kirkstone Park "alternate approval process".

They also revealed that the purpose of the road is to facilitate a re-development proposal by Mosaic at Emery Place. It reveals that a preliminary application was made February 14th with a public information (4th so far) to be held February 15th.

I cannot speak for anybody but me but most of us did NOT spend Valentine's Day reading municipal websites looking for information on development proposals or developer's meetings to be held the very next day!

To me this demonstrates that the District commitment to transparency is in tatters and that between the "alternate approval process" and the lack of notice true public input is not genuinely desired.

Mosaic's proposal has made little or no change from their original proposal shown in their public information meetings and includes as 12 story tower which is NOT permitted by the Official Community Plan but IS permitted by the "Lynn Valley Flexible Framework" on sites where there is deemed to be "special values" which are not defined in the document.

Based on Mosaic's proposal at public information meetings it is a complete mystery what "special values" there are in the proposal that would justify a lifting of the OCP maximum height from 8 to 12 stories.

"Inquiring minds would like to know"

Anonymous said...

Great comments Lyle,

The power has been in their hands for over ten years, but they have been using it very sparingly. The transfer of land in and out of Bridgman Park comes to mind. I suspect the council is more sensitive than you recognize in this piece. If 2% of the population wrote them it would be shocking and probably stop them in their tracks. The Province set the bar at 10%.

That last big urgent petition I can remember was when that pot dispensary wanted to open on the Parkway. That garnered notice of the evening news and got around 1% (~900 people) of the community writing in opposed and about half as many writing in support.

Referenda are largely useless for park dedication because they are spoon fed to the public. Do you want to dedicate this park? Yes or No? Overwhelmingly, People vote on it and do not do any further analysis of the cost of operating a park or the opportunity cost of sanitizing that land from other uses.

Council would be wise to concurrently increase the park space in the same area.

Lyle Craver said...

Certainly lack of park space was the biggest lack I noticed in the OCP in 2011.

I understand all about the "alternate approval process" and think the DNV requirements for printed petition forms and the ridiculously short petition time period are prime examples of lack of transparency.

As an example of "petitions done right" I urge you to check out UK Parliament Petition Site (click link)

John Sharpe said...

Great post Lyle,

Thank you for raising this.

You should run for a council seat, I would support you.

"Since the public can only speak at Council on non-agenda items at the discretion of the Mayor, Mayor Walton is able to prevent any public input on this matter at Council if he chooses."

Are you saying if I show up at the next council meeting, and voice my 1/5962th to address this issue, The Mayor can be stop me from speaking about it?

Anonymous said...

John and Lyle

The DNV takes the position that the Mayor can restrict public input only to agenda items.

In fact that position is false. Which is why I am of suspect of Mr. Craver's words that council's intentions were good. I have seen limited to no good intentions from this council regarding anything related to development. This is the same council I remind all that waived $3 million in CACs for the redevelopment of the Polygon lands tangent to the Mosaic proposal. No honest party would EVER waive $3 million in CACs for desperately needed social infrastructure including supportive housing so that a developer can built market rental housing where a 2-bedroom home rents for $2,600 a month.

A series of court decisions in Canada, most recently Bracken v City of Fort Erie has affirmed that both public input and public space are available for any discussion provided it does not obstruct a council meeting or the work of staff. I have requested DNV Council acknowledge receipt of this decision at municipal hall and commit to compliance. Council refuses to respond to me.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Mayor honoured a NSMBA rep who spoke on a non-agenda item a couple weeks ago. Because the rep was patting Council on their backs (in order to garner more DNV funding), I guess flattery of Council is welcmed under those restrictions. Heaven forbid if you should criticize them or their decisions, under the same non-agenda item restrictions.

Dick Walton said...

Like the Pope I was elected for life and I find it offensive that anyone takes exception to my edicts.

Anonymous said...

Also the comment below the story.

There are no judges at the Tribunal. They are called members.

Lyle Craver said...

I think the whole alternate approval process is defective and prone to abuse by those in positions of power.

There was an advert in Wednesday's Vancouver Sun on a AAP application by Metro Vancouver concerning transferring of MV lands to the City of Abbotsford - and the "petition requirement" was 171000+ names in six weeks.

While having no interest in that matter to me it shows how "alternate approval" can skew the scales of justice in ways the public can't effectively respond to.

If DNV insists on retaining this noxious tool serious reforms are needed - posting of all petitions on the DNV website and allowing online signing (as they do in Britain), giving a reasonable time to respond, and lowering the required signatures.

If District elections required candidates to get 10% to be elected on the present Council would be only Walton (acclaimed), Muri and Mackay-Dunn.

If 10% is considered fair for 'alternate approval processes' then it is equally fair for elections.

What do you say?

Hazen Colbert said...

In a paper published by the Environmental Law Center at the University of Victoria in 2009, the author reviewed the use of referenda v alternative approval process (AAP).

The conclusion based on Section 800 of the Local Government Act was written:

When participating area approval is sought for an entire service area, the
board may proceed by referendum, or by alternative approval process. However a public referendum is seen as more open and transparent.

It should be noted that referenda have been consistently used by the DNV when the outcome was a benefit to local residents while the AAP process is used where the benefit is to developers or there is likely to be any support for a "No" in a referendum. This fact is why the DNV supported the UBCM efforts to get the "petition" process blocking the use of the AAP from 5% to 10% of the electorate, a process that is not, in any material way, achievable, particularly in a period of 6 weeks.

As the role of DNV Council since 2004 has evolved away from providing services to residents, particularly services for its most needy and vulnerable, to making the 1% even more wealthy and channeling money to their preferit, the DNV has found itself relying more-and-more on the AAP since there is little to no merit to the average resident for the occasions that would go to referendum. For instance who but a developer would support parkland or public land of any type being sold for a nickel on the dollar to a developer,if that? Or who would support public roads, trails etc being handed over to private interests gratis. It is a process rightfully called Public Assets Private Greed. The process can be stopped only by the democratic process, so the DNV uses a legal tool to stymie democracy, in this case using the APP.

The APP is yet another example of the absence of democracy at the municipal level, not only in the DNV but across the Province.

Anonymous said...

I noticed a petition against the Mosaic road in Kirkston is available for people to sign at Lynn Manor on Whiteley Court.

Anonymous said...

"It should be noted that referenda have been consistently used by the DNV when the outcome was a benefit to local residents while the AAP process is used where the benefit is to developers or there is likely to be any support for a "No" in a referendum. "

How many times has the AAP been used in the District? I can only remember the AAP being used to widen Keith Road through Bridgman Park. You seem to suggest it is used to benefit developers. Other than the current proposal at Kirkstone where else has it been used to benefit developers?

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity Lyle, why the heck do you have a picture of Alexandra Kosteniuk as your picture profile on your NSNews Discus account? The Goat The greatest of all time? I didn't take you to be a fanboy.

Hazen Colbert said...

Anonymous Friday, March 02, 2018 11:42:00 am

We were sold on the Bridgestone Park un-dedication for Keith Road as necessary for widening the road. This sales job was done prior to Councillor Bond being voted into office, and not explained at the one night back in or around 2012 that MrBond, as he was known at the time, made his sole appearance in council chambers prior to his election. In any event, while that statement regarding Kieth Road is true, what we were not told is that the un-dedication would also benefit Darwin properties who plan to build six buildings on the existing North Shore Winterclub site. Without Keith Rd being expanded the Winterclub site could not have been redeveloped unless someone believes that a 150-metre two-lane, dead-end service road can handle 1,000 cars during rush hour.

You can look up all the other uses of AAP.

Lyle Craver said...

To the anon who asked about my NS News Discus photo the day I set that up I was posting from a Facebook account I use only for online games. Among other things I play chess online and Kosteniuk is one of the top 5 female players in the world. "The Goat" is a long time alias which again is used predominantly in the online games.

Anonymous said...

"You can look up all the other uses of AAP."

You were suggesting it was being abused. I was aware of one prior instance where it was used in 13 years, but was unaware of instances where it was being abused for developer benefit. Kirkstone trail/road usage notwithstanding.

Yes Keith Road was widened, but arguing it was done for the potential future densification of the North Shore Winter Club site is a bit of a stretch. It was widened because of the densification of the city which had led to the intersections failing to clear for hours each day.

John Sharpe said...


So is there an anti-un'dead'ication petition circulating around?


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