Momentous council meeting, Mon, Feb 21, 4 pm

One of the most far-reaching votes ever for Richmond’s city council will take place at the General Purposes meeting on Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, in the Anderson Room, Richmond City Hall, at 4 p.m. Some details:

  • Early in the meeting, members of the public will have the opportunity to address the topic for up to 5 minutes. If you will be speaking, be aware that Richmond council’s policy re listening to the public is one of the best in Metro Vancouver. Most speakers show appreciation for the opportunity by being well informed and prepared.
  • City Hall is on No. 3 Road at Granville. There is generally some parking available, but come in good time.

The agenda states this staff recommendation:

That the proposed Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) Bylaw 1136, 2010, entitled, “Metro Vancouver 2040, Shaping Our Future”, be accepted.

The problem with that recommendation is that Richmond would lose its integrity and (very possibly) hundreds of millions of dollars by following it—and gain absolutely nothing.

A key part of the problem is that the bylaw shows the Garden City Lands as being used for illegal land use, contravening the Agricultural Land Commission Act. Since it is essentially impossible for the City to get away with that, even under the guise of a Metro bylaw, the City can only lose if council votes in a way that implies it is trying to get away with it. Unfortunately, the loss of integrity (priceless) would likely be accompanied by the loss of a great deal of the taxpayers’ money.

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The above is the short version. To learn more, two good options would be (a) to keep reading below or (b) to go to the very significant legal opinion that should show the council members that they have been misled.

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You decided to read on! Great!

The key shortcoming in the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw is that a 112 hectare area of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is designated as “General Urban” instead of “Agricultural.” That area consists of the Garden City Lands and the Department of National Defence Lands (DND Lands) to the east. According to the bylaw:

General Urban areas are intended for residential neighbourhoods and centres, and are supported by shopping, services, institutions, recreational facilities and parks.

Perhaps needless to say, “residential neighbourhoods and centres” are not a permitted use in the ALR. In an October 2010 letter from the executive director and a November follow-up from the chair, the Agricultural Land Commission has been clear and firm that those parts of the bylaw are contrary to the Agricultural Land Commission Act and will be of no force and effect. Since the problem “General Urban” designations are illegal, they are much worse than useless.

The staff report shows no possible advantage to the illegal action that the report recommends. Presumably the bright idea was that breaking the law would make the city more autonomous, but instead it would just make it unsuccessfully unprincipled. Being unprincipled is really bad, but being a failure at being unprincipled is really pathetic.

Worst of all, voting according to the inane staff recommendation would put the city in a terrible position in the lawsuit brought against it by the Musqueam Indian Band. As far as I know, the city always acted with goodwill and good faith with the band in the Garden City Lands agreements. The staff report is asking council to throw that all away by appearing to try to unjustly enrich the city—which is what the lawsuit claims the city is trying to do.

Fortunately, when the Metro Vancouver Board voted on the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw on January 14, one of the two directors representing Richmond was Coun. Harold Steves, and he voted against it. Unfortunately, the other was Mayor Malcolm Brodie. If the council majority votes with Coun. Steves and against the bylaw, our future will look very much brighter.

Most basically, this is a matter of following the law with integrity or not. However, on a financial level, it is a matter of taking a huge risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit settlement or not. When there is nothing whatever to gain and integrity and a fortune to lose, why would anyone gamble?

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Notes:

  • If Richmond votes to not accept the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw, it will not be rejecting the whole bylaw. When not approving, it will actually just specify the parts that it wants changed. The odd effect is that voting not to approve, under the legislation, amounts to being a vote to approve subject to specified conditions. There will be no difficulty in getting the errant parts of the bylaw changed, since there can be no objection to a municipality insisting on following the law of British Columbia.
  • Significantly, the staff report does not include the letters from the Agricultural Land Commission that would help council members to make the best decision in an informed way. The report also does not include the best available legal opinion on the issue. It is “Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and ALR Lands,” and it is from Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law to the Garden City Lands Coalition Society, and the Metro Vancouver lawyer received it in plenty of time to distribute it. (See the posts right below this one for details.)
  • For more insights, please see additional Metro Regional Growth Strategy posts by scrolling down further or going to the Metro Vancouver Archive.
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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    al Says:

    Politics 101..

    Metro Van Board Meeting Nov.12, 2010

    Minutes:

    http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/GVRD%20Board/GVRD_Board-November_12_2010-Minutes.pdf

    It was MOVED and SECONDED
    That the Board give leave to introduce “Greater Vancouver Regional District
    Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw No. 1136, 2010” (Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future as a Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw), a bylaw to adopt a regional growth strategy for the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and that it be read a first time.
    CARRIED
    Directors Asmundson, Clay and Sekora voted in the negative.

    It was MOVED and SECONDED
    That the Board give second reading to “Greater Vancouver Regional District Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw No. 1136, 2010” (Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future as a Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw), a bylaw to adopt a regional growth strategy for the Greater Vancouver Regional District.
    CARRIED
    Directors Asmundson, Clay and Sekora voted in the negative

    =========

    On Nov.12, 2010 MVRGS passed 1st and 2nd reading

    I don’t see EITHER of our (2) Richmond directors on record as voting
    against MVRGS Bylaw 1136 …..only (3) NON Richmond directors voted in the negative.

    I also seem to recall one of our Richmond directors quoted in the Local Richmond paper as stating paying $47+ million over assessed price was worth it.

    Y’ see…politics is like this.
    You lurk in the weeds, follow the agenda, not on record as against it…making sure there is enough momentum that it’s a sure thing.

    Then, at the very last vote …… ie 3rd reading….light your hair on fire and get in the newspapers how against it you were…knowing full well its a slam dunk ……thus the old fox is having it both ways to fool a gullible group of supporters .

    That’s why it’s good to take the time to read A-L-L the ” Minutes “…


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