Public hearing on October 15, 2012

There’a a public hearing in the council chambers at city hall (No. 3 Road at Granville, Richmond, B.C.) on Monday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. The eighth/last item in the agenda package, pages 113–142, is to change the West Cambie Natural Park to “Neighborhood Residential” for townhouse development. (For some related posts, see the Viewscapes category.)

The pubic can address the hearing on the issue. Whether or not there is a time limit, speakers can normally make their point in less than five minutes, and I recommend planning your presentation for 2–5 minutes. It will be great if there are some informed speakers on this important matter.

I have addressed this in previous posts mainly in the context of the world-class legacy viewscape from the Garden City Lands that is being jeopardized by the proposed townhouse development, as well as by the Walmart development to its west. There are also significant ecological factors. To fill out the picture, I should mention that the West Cambie Area, which had far less park than the city standard, will now lose most of the little it did have, and all of this is happening with little consultation with the public

It was encouraging to me that staff met with me to exchange constructive ideas about concerns. In contrast, it is disappointing that the discussion has had no effect on what staff are asking council to approve.

If this matter gets approved, there will be nothing to safeguard the legacy viewscapes we’ve always had from the Garden City Lands. There will also be nothing to preserve and enhance ecological benefits to minimize—or at least offset—the ecological losses from the cancelling of the long-promised park. Those of us who don’t live in West Cambie can empathize better if we imagine it’s a park in our neighbourhood that is being eliminated to make room for townhouse development.

It is true that an ecologically sensitive area (ESA) is being kept on the ESA map in the park area, and that is better than nothing, but only slightly better. Since the city ignored Walmart’s preloading of ESA-designated land on its property with huge amounts of ecologically deadly sand, we know that an ESA is no substitute for the firm establishment of wildlife corridors that would also screen the construction (as seen from the Garden City Lands) to maintain the legacy viewscape.

What’s needed could be worked out prior to any official change to the West Cambie Natural Area. It would require negotiation with the owner/developer of the park lots, which the city never purchased. Obviously, the city is currently in a great negotiating position, and that position will become weaker if the city designates the park as “Neighbourhood Residential” before completing a successful negotiation.

It is clear that it will be a significant mistake if council votes to approve the change that eliminates the West Cambie Natural Park at this time. It is possible that it won’t be a mistake later, but key steps need to be firmly taken between now and then.

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