Three Neighbourhood Associations appear at Council to urge more community consultation
Gord Fuller — June 24 2010
The South End Community Association is going to be posting Nob Hill Neighbours Jacquie Howardson’s & my comments about our appearing at Council this week to speak to the lack of community involvement in the Port Place Mall redevelopment plans. They’re posted here below.
Also, The Nanaimo Old City Association, SECA & Nob Hill are jointly looking at having the developer give a presentation prior to the Public Hearing to rezone the property for a 26 story highrise.
Three neighbourhood associations, I might add quite bravely, suggested to council last night that they felt they weren’t properly consulted prior to Port Place development permit approval coming to council. Several tacts were taken to get council to think outside the development box and be more inclusive. Gord Fuller of Seca spoke to the history of harbour park mall and the fact that the plans had changed so much since the original presentation months ago, no one was really clear on the scope of the development or what the changes were. I spoke to the importance of downtown development working within the context of old neighbourhoods and the knowledge that exists within those communities. Frank Murphy spoke to the process of the development permit process and read a statement from NOCA who agreed that neighbourhood consultation was a good thing and that it didn’t happen in this case.
Council did not agree with us, except for counselor Jim Kipp who felt that consultation with neighbourhoods was desirable and asked about the planning process in that regard. I don’t believe we had much of an impact on the rest of council. All approved the development permit Phase 1 and Phase 2 with very little discussion or questions to the developer. The 26 storey tower which is a rezoning issue was not addressed by any of us, as there will be public hearings on this later.
It was interesting and hopefully council may take the unified efforts of the three Neighbouhood Associations, SECA, Nob Hill & NOCA, into account in the future.
One has to realize that First Capitol had no obligation to communicate with the Neighbourhoods as phase 1 & 2 are legitimate uses of the current zoning of the property. They did however have to communicate with the city and the design advisory panel which was a long process and their designs were rejected by the panel a number of times.
It is only when they move to phase three and rezone to allow for greater height that a public hearing will have to be held and then the public can speak, but even then it will be just to allowing for greater height and not design of the project. The goal I think was to get council to at least revisit the consultation process for the future and in that we may have been successful.
For three Neighbourhood Associations to coordinate and come together in less than a day is the truly phenominal asspect of the council meeting last night.
I also thought it was very worthwhile for the 3 groups to send the one message to Council: more consultation on these big projects is necessary to get the best possible result for everyone. Here’s the message I read on behalf of the Nanaimo Old City Association:
The Nanaimo Old City Association respectfully requests that Council’s consideration of the Development Permit for phase 1 of the Port Place Mall redevelopment on your agenda not proceed this evening until further consultation has been done with the resident stakeholders in the adjoining neighbourhoods.
For downtown and south end folks, this site is of great importance as a commercial, social and public use amenity.
The proponent and the Planning Department may well be on the right track here and we appreciate the work done to date but, especially given that the latest version of the plans which have changed a number of times were only made available on the City’s website Friday afternoon, there needs to be more and better consultation with the community.
Thanks for giving the input of the Nanaimo Old City Association consideration here this evening.
Andrea Blakeman, President
on behalf of the Nanaimo Old City Association
Public consultation may be lacking in the redevelopment of an important site like this but consider this: As Planner Andrew Tucker pointed out here on May 27:
64% of all Development Permits don’t even get input from Council. They’re signed off on by Ted Swabey, GM Development Services under the City’s delegation by-law — Council approval not required.
“Under the City’s delegation by-law (Bylaw 7031), the General Manager of Development Services is delegated the authority to approve the DP. The process by which this occurs is that, following acceptance by the Design Advisory Panel, the application is posted for 5 days in the Councillors’ office for their review and information and then signed off by the GM Development Services. Approximately 64% of all DP applications received by the City are approved by the GM of Development Services following posting.”