Giving away the Future

Ron Bolin  —  August 9, 2010
At its August 9, 2010 meeting, in a five to one vote (Councillors Holdom, Kipp and Sherry were absent), Council chose to give away future bargaining power over the development of our downtown waterfront area for no comprehensible reason other than that the developer asked to have his rights for a 26 storey high-rise condominium enshrined into the future. For this privilege no offsetting obligations concerning when this tower might be built were given.
At the public hearing, the developer held that 15 years in the future might be an appropriate time frame for construction. Awarding possibilities for the future like this provides security for the developer, but what does it do for the public interest? The future is hard to read even in the short term. In the long term it is impossible, yet Council is willing to give up our future maneuverability in this matter for … nothing. The developer is assured of his future rights without being required to take on any obligations.
Councillor Pattje, the lone dissenter in tonight’s vote, made a number of points which led him to vote against the rezoning, one of which noted this very point. The city is in the midst of developing a plan for the “new frontier” in our downtown area, including the Welcox Lands, the Assembly Wharf, etc. which are peripheral to this rezoning. Will these plans mesh with a high rise tower in the location which Council approved tonight? Perhaps. But it could offer an impediment. Who knows what the future will bring? And since we do not know, why should we mortgage our future in this or any other similar case before a developer is prepared to make the future into the present? What right do we have now to tie the hands of that future Council which will have to deal with the reality of the tower. To protect the rights of that future Council and our future citizens, our current Council should make all such applications dependent upon a relatively short and defined time frame and send the developer back to the drawing board if that time frame is not met.