No vote | Big obfuscation | Small win

The title of this blog post is the executive summary of the Richmond council meeting of Feb. 21, 2011, that city staff wanted to approve the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy bylaw. (A detail: Council met as a committee, but that’s where the main decision would be made.)

No vote is good. It means that the mayor gauged which way the winds were blowing and knew the resolution would be defeated.

City staff spoke first, and the usual obfuscation came out:

  • Supposedly the Garden City Lands and Department of National Defence Lands (DND Lands) to the east, both in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) should be General Urban because they were urban in the old bylaw and not in the Green Zone, so their designation supposedly hasn’t changed. However, there was no Urban or General Urban in the old bylaw, and there is no Green Zone in the new bylaw. An untrue statement is a lie no matter how many times it is repeated. This was addressed earlier here. More basically, the assertion would be irrelevant even if it were true.
  • Supposedly the letters from the Agricultural Land Commission directing Metro Vancouver to correct the Urban designations of ALR land are “opinions” (or so a councillor was told). No, the ALC is a tribunal. It is like a court except that it has more specific expertise and acts more informally and preventively. When it states how the ALC must be applied, it is expressing more than an opinion. The tribunal’s respectfulness to Metro has been disrespected as weakness. The city is acting like a kid trying to take too much advantage of a parent’s love by pushing too far.
  • The mayor asked staff about what the Agricultural Land Commission could do to enforce its directions. They told each other, with barely suppressed delight, that it would have to take action against Metro, not the city. (And that seems true.) So, the City tells Metro to include the illegal designations in the bylaw, and the city then hides behind Metro as it “takes the rap.” Aren’t we just bursting with pride at Richmond’s leadership?
  • Then and later, there was mention of another legal opinion to the city about the Garden City Lands, apparently about whether it was okay to keep the existing designation (from the previous bylaw) as urban or general urban. Supposedly the opinion was supportive. However, the opinion was based on false premises, since neither an Urban (or General Urban) designation nor an Agricultural designation existed in the previous bylaw, as mentioned earlier. The old GIGO rule applies: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Richmond is good at allowing citizens to speak to council. Ten spoke on this issue, all opposed to approving the bylaw unless it is amended, as follows:

  • Nine brought a variety of perspectives to the obvious flaw of the Garden City Lands being designated General Urban instead of Agricultural, which would befit its confirmed status as Agricultural Land Reserve land.
  • Most of them included the Department of National Defence Lands (DND Lands) to the east in their concerns about General Urban designation of ALR land.
  • One or two also mentioned that the Terra Nova parks should not be General Urban. (True.)
  • One who wanted an area of small ALR properties to be General Urban pointed out the double standard. If I infer correctly, the point is that there are a lot of such properties on and near No. 4 Road that are already a residential neighborhood (i.e., General Urban) but designated Agricultural because it is convenient for the city government. In contrast, an ALR area that is one mile by half a mile is designated General Urban. The difference is that it is government owned, while the small No. 4 Road properties are citizen owned.

In the council members’ discussion afterward, Coun. Harold Steves labored valiantly and well, most of the councillors seemed to take seriously the need to change inappropriate land use designations.

Unfortunately the mayor showed that he still doesn’t “get it.” He will now try to get majority support for an approach with no upside and huge downside before the bylaw has to come to a vote. So the victory is small, but we won’t be choosy about wins.



  1. […] is an initial report.  Four municipalities discussed the RGS today. Report from Richmond, link is here. Excerpt: “No vote, Big obfuscation, Small win… city staff wanted to approve the Metro […]

  2. 2
    Al Says:

    Please keep in mind this Councils overall record.

    The irony after yesterday’s GP meeting was the Tall Ships matter tabled as the 2nd agenda item.
    After making a decision in mid 2010 to go with it, they later realized it wouldn’t happen……poor due diligence. Now instead of cancelling, they want to save face and try for a mini – festival .

    The GCL matter was an excellent example of the herd mentality.
    Gov’ts have various agendas drafted in the backrooms, that may be months in the making. Then at some point a bare minimum of transparency has to occurr, ie presented to Committee and then to Council Meeting.

    The modus operandi is to overwhelm in detail…but dangle some sort of trust us ” Executive Summary ” to Council.
    The GCL MOU etc. was a minefield of legal traps, and Council signed on via a delusional view of their own omnipotence as a Local Gov’t would make the GCL exclusion a slam dunk, and that the pre-meditated legal traps set by the Musqueam would never be triggered.

    Anyone that took the time to review ALC decisions on- line would see that if the ALR parcel was “greater than 2 acres”, the chances of Exclusion are slim and none(with exceptions I won’t get into).

    One ALC decision in 2010 made an exclusion on a less than 2 acre parcel based that it was a Section 23 of the ALC Act, and thus was excluded on this basis, all other factors were irrelevant. The City is playing games with its gatekeeper role, that is IRREFUTABLE fact. The City is simply playing games, and angering everyone in the process.

    Now that the City owns the GCL…..the plot thickens….
    It now becomes a huge issue for the Nov. 2011 elections.
    Letters to the Editor in our local papers show a high percentage of angry citizens fed up with Councils’ cavalier spending.

    In my estimation, the City is losing approx. $2 Million/year via its purchase of the GCL. We also have the Musqueam lawsuit . What’s the solution? Many are adding it up to another smokescreen that the Musqueam and City are in cahoots……will kiss and make up…..which explains the General Urban designation the City has requested.

    However, be careful that the GCL , ( and DND and Terra Nova ) issues are not red herrings laid out to deflect attention. THE major issue is why a 30 year plan being proposed, WHY is local autonomy being displaced…and who benefits from this new dictatorship ?.

    The entire Metro Van RGS Bylaw 1136 is a huge trap laid out to fool all Metro Local Gov’t Councils.

    Mayors , the CAO and the Planners run the given Local Gov’t City….the rest are puppetts whose strings are pulled and manipulated to force the pre-meditated agenda .

  3. 3
    Jess Says:

    Thank you Jim for posting the summary for those who couldn’t make it yesterday!
    Most importantly big thanks to those who took time to participate at the meeting!

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