Acting now for Richmond public hearing re new-house massing

This older 2.5-storey house is 7.7 metres high. The white chevron shows the height limit for new Richmond houses, 9 metres. The red chevron shows “phony height,” an actual 10.5 metres that counts as 9 metres. (As well, a new house could have a higher site grade and 75% more floor area.)

Update, Tuesday, September 8: Basically the public hearing worked out well. We’ll count our chickens after the council meeting of next Monday, since some revised wording will be voted on at that time.

This article builds on my earlier Richmond News column titled “House bylaw’s phoney height is a real waste,” illustrated with the house at right.

This one has appeared as another Richmond News column, “Make your voice heard at public hearing, earn that miracle.”

The first reason it’s here as well is to include hyperlinks. In addition, there are useful updates at the bottom of the article.

__________

Question: Can the public be heeded at the next public hearing?

Answer: Yes, miracles can happen if we earn them.

On Tuesday, September 8 at 7 pm, council will hear the public on a new-house massing bylaw. The venue is the council chambers at Richmond City Hall.

At this point, the bylaw (which was supported by all councillors except Carol Day and Harold Steves) serves the interests of developers more than the needs of citizens. It includes some improvements, but at this point it ignores some evident needs and could even be worse for some neighbourhoods.

The public hearing is a speed bump before the final rubber stamp. If you value neighbourhoods and the Garden City more than mega trophy houses, you will want the bylaw fixed first.

For quick impact, you could go to the online form for public hearings and write “Please use the 3.7 metre ceiling height and the 9 metre building height for all new houses.”

Those ample heights (over 12 feet and almost 30 feet) were set but then fudged. Applied firmly, they’d help put a collar on rampant problems.

If you value trophy houses most, you could write “Please pass the bylaw as is.” I’d still respect you for taking part.

I wanted to check some details of the public hearing, so I discussed them with Richmond’s Manager of Legislative Services, Michelle Jansson. The rest of this column is a brief how-to manual.

Online, get to know the Richmond.ca website. Click your way from the “City Hall” tab to “City Council” to “Watch Meetings Online” or “Public Hearings.” From there you can reach “Speak at a Public Hearing” and “Send a Submission Online.”

On the “Send a Submission Online” form, use 9280 as the Bylaw Number. Or email council. Submissions are accepted up to the meeting time, 7 pm. Send your message much sooner if you can.

You can speak at the public hearing for up to ten minutes. That applies even if you’ve sent input, but do more than repeat it.

After everyone has spoken, you can speak for three more minutes—with new information.

Speaking well will influence people, even if you’re brief. It’s fine to simply state what’s best in half a minute.

Nitti Sharma talking to Richmond Council, July 27, 2015When you practice, visualize yourself at the speakers’ desk. View some of the online video of the July 27 council meeting. You’ll see citizens like Nitti Sharma speak about the new-house massing bylaw in the “Committee of the Whole” part (as shown at right).

Then bring your speaking notes. That will help you recall your points, conserve time and have fun.

Come early. If need be, wait for seats to open up. The new-house bylaw is last on the agenda, and people who’ve come for earlier items will leave when they’re finished.

There will be a handout to pick up as you enter. There may also be a speakers’ list to sign.

Decorum is normal. It’s tacky to shout out, clap or chat in a hearing.

After earning a miracle, sit back and see what happens.

Then bring your speaking notes. That will help you recall your points, conserve time and have fun.

Come early. If need be, wait for seats to open up. The new-house bylaw is last on the agenda, and people who’ve come for earlier items will leave when they’re finished.

There will be a handout to pick up as you enter. There may also be a speakers’ list to sign.

Decorum is normal. It’s tacky to shout out, clap or chat in a hearing.

After earning a miracle, sit back and see what happens.

___________

Updates:

1. The Richmond.ca background material on this for the public hearing is not current.

2. A Friend of Garden City has pointed out that all submissions (including emails) to a public hearing are required to include one’s first & last name and address.

3. A key problem with Amendment Bylaw 9280 is that the definition of building height has an exception that has the effect of making the 9 metre official maximum become an actual 10.5 metres. In an attachment, I’ve highlighted the problem on page 1. Simply by leaving out words, that definition becomes a clear 9 metre maximum: “Height, building means the vertical distance between finished site grade and the highest point of the building.”

4. In the bottom line of the same attachment, the “5.0 m” figure (5.0 metres) is what Lynda ter Borg and other experts say should be changed to “3.7 m” ( just over 12 feet and more normal in Metro Vancouver). Notice that a builder would still be able to choose ceilings much higher than 3.7 metres with the space counting as two floors. The3.7 m height, which Richmond’s Advisory Design Panel supports, has the effect of reasonably limiting the bulk of new houses.

5. At one point, a staff member said that changing the definition of building height would be complicated. In reality, it is very simple. It is entirely a matter of deleting 74 words. amending 9280 building height definition.

6. The WRAPd.org website includes letters on this topic.

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