Referendum or Alternate Approval Process for Georgia Park
Ron Bolin: Oct. 21, 2014
This question was put to Bill McKay on his facebook page on Oct. 15:
”Hi Bill: I would very much appreciate clarification concerning your position regarding a referendum on the virtually perpetual lease of downtown city park land to a commercial hotel venture. As this use demands a referendum process, would/will you demand a full Referendum (no AAP) on the issue? If so, will/would you require the costs to the City of such a Referendum to be paid by the applicant? PS: You gave a very workmanlike presentation at last night’s Progressive Nanaimo. Good Start.” (Oct. 15, 2014)
It can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/mckay4mayor
The response came yesterday on Oct. 20.
Hi Ron, thanks for your question! Just to clarify, the change of use actually does not require a full referendum process. The Community Charter states there must be electoral consent, which can be achieved either though a referendum or an Alternative Approval Process (AAP). This is a term lease, not ‘virtually perpetual’ which is new terminology to me. I believe that we will achieve a higher participation rate by petition, particularly if citizens feel as strongly about the issue as you do. A full referendum is quite costly, so I want to ensure that there is enough public support before undergoing that process. In regards to your question regarding cost, the normal process would be that the City pays. To change that would cause considerable concern for any developer, particularly when it varies so far from the normal rules. A change in the way we conduct business would have to go to Council for consideration, as we couldn’t adopt this as a one-off approach. One of the ways that Nanaimo has successfully chased away much business is by continually moving the goal posts to thwart investment. If you are interested, I would be happy to request that you be added as a delegate for the next Development Process Review Committee and have you present your approach to the group. If the committee supports the concept, I would be happy to sponsor a motion on the subject to Council. This is due process Ron.
My reply to Mr. McKay was also sent yesterday, Oct. 20. It contains my feelings on the matter.
Thanks for responding honestly.
(It looks like your response was not to the facebook page to which I asked my question of you, but to me personally. Perhaps this is not correct. I make no claims to understand the ins and outs of Facebook. For this reason I am responding by email. If I find it on your facebook page I will be happy to post there.)
As a minor point, I think that it is quite reasonable to speak of a lease of over 60 years as “virtually perpetual”. The City will not guarantee my property taxes for more than a single year and would be willing to take it in three if I do not pay. Now I will agree that that is by no means “virtually perpetual” ownership.
Regarding your clarification, perhaps you could clarify further. I quite understand that a full referendum is not required by the CC or LGA, but the matter has been left open. Thus, I can chose to believe that the two approval processes are to be distinguished by the magnitude of the issue in question… or that the AAP negative billing process has been provided to permit the “passage” of the unimaginable by the uninformed. I suspect that at least 95% of our population are unaware of how many AAPs they have “approved” in the last few years. I also suspect that most are unaware that there are those sitting on Council who, if forced to meet the 10% approval process demanded by the AAP would not be there.
I also suspect that many have not considered the contradiction between the five year borrowing limit which demands a referendum and the 10 year burden put on all taxpayers by cost and tax exemptions which must be made up by general ratepayers and which Council seems to be both able and willing to grant without further ado.
As for the costs, timing, to a large extent is set by the applicant. The applicant neglected to put forward a proposal that could be voted on as part of our 2014 municipal election process at virtually no incremental cost to either themselves or the City. For whatever reason, they did not do so. To expect taxpayers to pay for their oversight is not in keeping with good public practices. There are costs associated with timing which are project costs. Going further, the donations to this project through DCCs, tax exemptions and density bonusing run, by my count, into the tens of millions of dollars which must be made up by City ratepayers. (See my estimates at https://nanaimocityhall.com/2014/09/07/all-i-want-for-christmas-is-a-laneway-and-double-the-density-and-part-of-georgia-park/ Thus far I have heard nothing to gainsay them – and certainly Staff, in its presentation to Council did not provide any official estimates of these costs.) The proponent given these transfers of wealth from citizens to their project, can scarcely complain if they were to be required to pay for the referendum at a time of their own choosing.
Further Responses/Comments from Candidates will be included in comments to this post.
Response from Brian Anderson to a similar Question:
Ron: I said I would get back to you on a question about the Alterative Approval Process (AAP), being considered for Georgia Park. I couldn’t find the link, so have answered here. You can paste my answer there if that is of assistance.
The AAP or a referendum are a matter of economics and the cost involved. I support the decision on the hotel, with the exception of the 10 year tax concession. So the AAP is more cost effective. I have also considered my answer relative to Representative Democracy. It is my understanding that we elect people to make decisions in our stead, and entrust them to be good stewards. So I have a problem with the concept of a referendum for anything but the most substantive matters as this will offset the cost. Other wise, why elect anyone, but that process would bog down into unmanageability. How would any of us feel if our local issue of concern was decided by referendum, by all the residents suffering from tax fatigue, then only the cheapest alternative might be approved, rather than the right one. Brian Anderson
Actually Ron, I was occupied at a conference in Calgary on sponsorship where I was invited to speak. I’ve been in touch via social media and sent some pics. I also did take time out to respond, with some depth, to your question. Further clarification will come as time allows, but I will also be compiling an FAQ to try and handle the hundreds of questions from individuals and groups coming my way which share similar concerns. For this, I’m flattered and a little overwhelmed. Individual voters can also come out and see me with their questions at the Nanaimo All Candidates Forum on November 4 at the VICC. Details coming from the Chamber soon I understand.
So the Hilton gets the parkland free gratis!!
The alternative voting procces is an assualt upon democratic principles.
Is there anyone but Fred Patje that is opposed to this socialism for the rich land transfer?
The privatization of the waterfront soldiers on!!
To be fair, the Hilton proposes to provide some money to beautify the park.
Nanaimo has no to beach to speak of & little waterfront park.
Surely we must use whatever there is for the benefit of the whole community.
Perhaps we should be creating more areas for parkland on the waterfront & thereby attract more local people to the downtown.
Nanaimo residents are it’s greatest( forgotten or ignored) asset.
It’s time to build community not real estate.
A successful hotel requires onsite parking, but this requirement is not met by the current proposal.
Therefore the following questions are raised;
Is the term lease of parkland for the purpose of building structured hotel parking? Yes or no?
If no, can the lease be altered before construction to allow structured hotel parking? Yes or no?
Will electoral consent be sought for structured parking in the park even though parking is not considered a land use? Yes or no?
Is the proposal a game of bait and switch by project proponents knowing that parking would not be supported but that a grand stair might in which case parking could be hidden under it?
Does a hotel require a grand stair in order to be successful? No.
Does a hotel require on-site parking to be successful? Yes.
Do any of these questions really matter anyway? Yes or no?
There are those on Council & their possible replacements that cling upon the hotel idea to justify the ( bailout) sad state of affairs of the convention centre.
Therfore the alternative voting proccess will likely be used as it has the much better chance of success.
Why did the Hilton group fail to take advantage of the tax (evasion) breaks offered to the Chinese ?
At the end of the day nothing much will change.
We will still have a city that has little to offer tourists.
We must also ask ourselves is it tourists that potential hoteliers wish to attract?
Could it be that the provincial Governments near give away of natural resources will attract speculators & inevitabley engineers ( TFW) to Nanaimo???
As Tumbler Ridge coal is only being mined by Chinese TFW ; can we expect the possibility of the same here??
Raven Coal are still expected to renew efforts to coal mine in the Fanny Bay area.