City, developers looking to wreck waterfront area
Dan Appell — July 22, 2010
To the Editor, Nanaimo News Bulletin
Re: Brechin residents don’t own city’s waterfront region, Letters, July 17.
I must respond to John Bailey’s very insulting letter.
To start, I am not a resident of Newcastle/Brechin Hill, but I have been involved in the community’s efforts to create a plan for itself. The property owners that I have met during this planning process are all working very hard to protect the value and increase the equity of their property. Their efforts are commendable.
The property owners of Brechin Hill are also trying to promote and defend the very best practices of urban development – development that is both sustainable and benefits everybody in Nanaimo.
Unfortunately, a few developers, would like to take value away from the Brechin Hill property owners, and use that to pay for amenities along the waterfront.
Bailey might be all right with that, because it looks like he gets something for nothing. The developers like it because they really do get something for nothing. Sadly, the people who pay for this, are our neighbours in Newcastle/Brechin Hill.
What these developers are trying to do on our waterfront isn’t right and it isn’t fair. It represents the very worst in urban planning practices.
The fact that certain city planners are doing their best to help these few developers, at the expense of a whole neighbourhood, is a disgusting shame. We need to put a stop to it.
In the July 8 issue of the Nanaimo News Bulletin, the Director of Planning for the City of Nanaimo, Andrew Tucker is quoted as saying; “The policy is to protect the views of Newcastle Channel. But is a series of low rise buildings or two tall, thin buildings the best way to protect that view?”
“Thin buildings” is planner speak for don’t worry you will hardly notice them. However, the issue is not simply views, nor is it a choice between towers or low rise buildings as is disingenuously suggested by Mr. Tucker.
The issue is really that the fix is already in for two designated sites along the channel that will be approved for high-rise towers no matter what Citizens or Councillors think because what the planner wants the planner gets. This observation is evidenced by the approval of the Port Place Mall tower at 26 storeys in spite of overwhelming public opposition and Councillor confusion at the public hearing. By now I expect that we are all getting very tuckered out by this style of town planning. When is enough, enough?
It’s a pretty good question, J. Olson. There was a peek inside the system at Vancouver City Council last week when Mayor Gregor wondered who the folks were who addressed Council… were they “fucking NPA hacks?” They included Ned Jacobs, acitivist son of Jane Jacobs. You can bet that level of disregard and disrespect is found in every Council that thinks no one’s listening.
Frances Bula on NW radio about the public consultation process:
“It isn’t working and it hasn’t been working for a long time. I have covered council for 15 years … and out of that time 99 of 100 decisions council goes ahead and does what was planned at the beginning even though hundreds of people sometimes show up. It is not a good process.”
… from Doug Ragan’s blog http://pradical.org/
Has council approved the tower at Port Place Mall? If so, does anyone know the vote?
The council has proceeded with the public hearing regarding the Port Place tower. Their decision to approve or disapprove the rezoning will be announced in August, I believe. At the public hearing there was very little arguments presented against the rezoning application. I do believe that rezoning will be allowed.
By the way, the council I served on rejected an application by Nanaimo Shipyard to build one or two towers. Rejected it out of hand, without going to public hearing. Do you get the sense that this council will allow an application to go ahead for public hearing for an amendment to the OCP to allow highrises on Stewart?
Both the Shipyard proposal and the one for Stone’s Marina are being revived to be included in the neighbourhood plan for Newcastle/Brechin. Also, Moby Dick Hotel group is wanting to build higher then allowed and is waiting for a favourable neighbourhood plan. Everyone knows that if only one of these projects is approved, all of them will be. The city planning department is doing everything it can to keep the door open for these proposals. Once these projects are green lighted through the neighbourhood plan there will be very little anybody can do to stop them.
The planning department has been brow beating the steering committee, used misleading language and weighted every discussion in favour of the developers.
What the planning department is doing is, at the very least, unprofessional. It is either, operating well within an ethical gray area or suffering from considerable systemic incompetence. Either way, I don’t hold up much hope for that planning document.
I think there is a misapprehension by some members of council regarding the amount of trust that many citizens place in the mayor, councillors and city staff. Putting it bluntly, some of them should “Wake up and smell the coffee.”
Further to Frank’s reference to Mayor Gregor Robertson’s remarks and … “Who are all these f—ing … who are these hacks, man? Are they NPA hacks?” … a Vancouver Sun reporter wrote a hilarious column about it. Here is the link to ‘Is this mike on?’ Enjoy!
I always found the people who worked in the planning department were professionals whose sole interest was to serve the public interest. After six years on council and two in the gallery, still hold that view.
Perhaps how I am applying the term “professional” may be confusing.
If I go to a doctor with an ailment that requires a prescription to cure me, and the doctor prescribes a pill not to treat my illness, but to make a pharmaceutical company wealthier, then I can rightfully accuse the doctor of acting in an unprofessional manner. The thing is, the doctor is acting like a professional. He is listening to my complaints, and he is filling out a prescription. To me, he would appear professional, but to someone with a bit more oversight, the doctor is operating well below ethical and professional standards.
I could be wrong on this point, because there may be some unseen political interference, but from my point of view, I see a group of planners creating a neighbourhood plan, not for the benefit of a large number of property owners, but for the benefit of three would be developers. The only planning these, so called professionals, are doing involves calculating the contribution of the additional doors these developments will add to city coffers.
I might add that the revised OCP is also the product of similar standard of professionalism.
And with respect, Diane, you might want to recall the quality and character of the advise you where given by these “professionals” when you made your decision to support the conference centre plan. From observed results, I inclined to believe that following the advice of the planning department tends to paint us into one corner or another.
That being said, I don’t doubt that these people are hard working and well intentioned. Are they effective? Perhaps, not really. Are they professional? Most definitely, not always.
I have to agree with Diane here. But the real question is about the definition of the public interest. Who is defining it? How is it defined? How is it being implemented? These are questions for Council and, by referral, for the citizens of Nanaimo. Staff is here to carry out these decisions professionally.
In my opinion there have been at least two major questions which arise from these basics in the last few years which have been answered very shortsightedly. First is the framing of the question of high rises on the waterfront in terms of what to build there rather than how to preserve it as a public good. The second is removing the Urban Containment Boundary at a radically immature time. I believe that the answers that Council has given to these two questions will haunt us for decades.
I am sure that there are those who would like to include the Conference Centre among these blunders, but it is one which I believe can be more easily -note I did not say easily- be overcome. Looking at the usage stats, the time to be thinking about alternatives is now.
Just because someone can get elected (with as little as 14% of the eligible vote) by no means makes them competent in matters of such magnitude. It is these same people who are, or are not overseeing the staff of this city. Many of whom (councilors) have never managed any more money than their personal budgets and have as much real understanding of community planning as they do of brain surgery. Most, if not all are there to serve the masters who got them elected. In Nanaimo that will either be business or labour.
If you need an example of incompetent council overseeing incompetent staff, you need look no further than the sweetheart agreements councils have cut with staff and the way the conference centre was managed.
To say the public interest has been professionally served is not a statement I am completely comfortable with.
Staff’s interests have certainly been well served, there would be no argument there.
I have lived in Nanaimo since 1970 and I can honestly say, I do not find this city any more appealing than it was back then, in spite of all the growth. In fact that growth could easily be considered a detriment.
The question: has all this growth done anything to improve Nanaimo? I turn the tap on, water comes out, it did in 1970. I pull the plug and the water goes away, it did in 1970. I wanted to skate or swim or watch sports, I can, I could also in 1970.
One clear difference between then and now, is the army of civil servants (servants?) being supported by an army of retired people, and poorly paid retail and hospitality workers.
I am not convinced that lining the waterfront with more towers, is going to do anything to improve the economic future of Nanaimo. A lot, if not most of those type of construction jobs, require migrant trades people from elsewhere, who simply move on when the project is done here.
How much Nanaimo cash stayed in Nanaimo with the construction of the Conference Centre?
The conclusion of this rambling rant would be the question of whether or not our current council or hired staff is really competent enough to know what the public interest truly is and whether or not all have passed their level of competence and have refused to take the step back.
Looking at the overall form of cities as we approach them from the water, their approach to high rises can be classed as either snaggle toothed cities or cities wearing crowns.
High rises on a waterfront look from afar like the stumps of teeth rising from a huge open maw overpowering the rest of the city’s face.
High rises on the tops of surrounding hills look like crowns on the heads of royalty.
The former devours the face of the city while the latter frames it.
Think about it. How should we, on a beautiful waterfront, frame our city?