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Confusion surrounds the city's Regional Context Statement

On Tuesday, Vancouver city council voted to refer the Regional Context Statement Development Plan to a public hearing on June 11th. Following the public hearing, council will vote again on whether or not to adopt the plan as an Official Development Plan. If adopted, the plan would then be the guiding policy for all development within the city. 

Councillor Adrianne Carr was the one councillor opposed to the referral. She was concerned because the plan referred to the Broadway Corridor and the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, two items she felt hadn’t received enough public consultation: 

“I’m dismayed because I don’t think that this motion is ready to go to public hearing, […] because I don’t believe that certain pieces of it have had significant public consultation enough to be embedded into this Regional Context Statement. […] Having it embedded in our Official Development Plan, including the pieces that are parts of the plan now that we were promised at this council table—and the public was promised—would go through more extensive public review before they got adopted.”

The purpose of the Regional Context Statement is to provide a blueprint, showing how the city’s plans and policies align with Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy. While it does mention the Broadway Corridor, it only identifies the corridor as a potential Frequent Transit Development Area (FTDA), a term taken from the Regional Growth Strategy:

“It is expected that additional Frequent Transit Development Areas will be identified, pending future transit investment and planning work. Given Broadway’s significant role in the region, it is expected that it will be prioritized as a future Frequent Transit Development Area.”

Council would in no way be obliged to develop a rapid transit system in the Broadway Corridor just because it’s mentioned in the plan.

As for the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, the plan lists the task force’s final report as a policy aimed at providing “diverse and affordable housing options,” and highlights the recommendations in the report and the actions approved by council. The main concern for Councillor Carr and Councillor George Affleck was that the Thin Streets concept was included in the list of actions.

Jane Pickering, the deputy director of planning, explained why the policy was included: “The Mayor’s Task Force is cited as an example of how we meet the regional goal, and Thin Streets is just pulled out as another example. There’s another process around that. The Regional Context Statement doesn’t question whether or not… the right or wrong or whatever people’s opinion is of that, it’s simply part of that particular task force. It has been rolled up into… as a result of the task force, into the community plans and it will be considered through those and brought forward for public consultation.”

Councillor Andrea Reimer confirmed with Pickering that the point of the Regional Context Statement was not to re-open policies for debate: “The Regional Context Statement, as I understand it, can only be a reflection of existing policy. […] If one was unhappy with the amount of consultation on housing, for example, this would not be the process through which to overturn those policies." 

Councillor Affleck supported the motion, but asked City Manager Penny Ballem if she could draft a yellow memo explaining the process surrounding the adoption of the plan and the intent of the document. “Clearly,” he said, “there is a lot of confusion in the public regarding the process and the intent of this document and the intent of what we’re doing moving forward.” He mentioned a number of emails that mayor and council had received from concerned citizens.

If you have concerns about the Regional Context Statement Development Plan, contact Mayor Robertson and the city councillors at [email protected] and be sure to attend the public hearing.

 

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