Today West Vancouver and several other municipal councils (see list at top of web page) will be reviewing their staff recommendations to “accept” the Regional Growth Strategy. MetroVanWatch believes that there has not been enough public scrutiny of the final several months when municipal planners negotiated important details of this complex bylaw. We have failed to see evidence of enough independent analysis of the implications, costs and benefits, of the RGS. The issues now facing West Vancouver are just one example. In the coming months we expect more such cases to emerge around the region. Below is a letter issued from MetroVanWatch to West Van Mayor and Council for their meeting today.
6 March 2011
Her Worship Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and Council
District of West Vancouver
Dear Mayor and Council,
Re: Recommended changes in text regarding agenda item for March 7 Council meeting agenda #12. Report on Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy (File: 0185-01)
We are concerned that the proposed recommendations in the staff report http://www.westvancouver.ca/government/level2.aspx?id=3204 are not consistent with the West Vancouver Official Community Plan (OCP) and will not result in the protection of the Upper Lands as stated to be the objectives of this Council and the public. Please consider striking and replacing the staff recommendations with the following (changes in bold):
1. Council NOT accept the new Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy entitled Metro Vancouver 2040 – Shaping our Future (Regional Growth Strategy
Bylaw No. 1136, 2010);
2. Council request that the Metro Board amend the strategy to expand the Conservation recreation designation to all lands above the 1200 foot elevation line be designated as conservation/recreation; and
3. Council request that the Urban Containment Boundary be lowered to the 1200 foot elevation level and further below any parks or watersheds that are adjacent to the 1200 foot elevation line.
4. Council request that the Special Study Area be removed entirely.
Clarification of reasons for these proposed changes to the staff recommendations are as follows:
The staff report says it is “recommended that 1. Council accept the new Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy entitled Metro Vancouver 2040 – Shaping our Future (Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw No. 1136, 2010)”
This is a problem because under legislation the Local Government Act specifies that in order to make changes to the RGS, the municipality must reject the RGS and request the changes as part of a dispute resolution process. If West Vancouver accepts the RGS as currently written, the proposed RGS becomes law and there is no guarantee that any further changes West Vancouver may seek will ever be made at all or if made, made in a timely manner. Also, once area above the 1200′ line is designated as General Urban it may signal development rights that may have legal and financial consequences to the municipality.
The staff report also says it is “recommended that 2. Council request that the Metro Board amend the strategy to expand the Conservation recreation designation to ensure that the entire Old Growth Conservancy be designated as conservation/recreation; and 3. Council request that the special study area be expanded to include all lands above the 1200 foot contour line designated as general urban.”
This proposal would not protect the forested lands above the 1200 ft. line and would not be consistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP).
To be consistent with the OCP, the Urban Containment Boundary would have to be lowered to the 1200′ line (and below any parks or watershed close to the 1200′ line). Everything above the 1200 ft. line and the amended Urban Containment Boundary would have to be shown as Conservation & Recreation. The Special Study Area should only be the small area under consideration in the OCP shown as “possible 1200 ft line variation”, but the underlying designation should be Conservation & Recreation as shown on the OCP.
What is being proposed by staff would jeopardize everything above 1200 ft. If the intent is to not develop this area, then the RGS should be modified now to make it consistent with the OCP as indicated above. Special Study Areas increase development pressure because they have a very low threshold for approval of exclusions. They only require a 50%+1 vote of quorum at the Metro Board, with no public hearing. If West Vancouver gets a development friendly or naive Council in the next 30 years, the upper lands could be developed very easily if offending map designations and text currently written in the RGS is not changed now. The Metro board would have no grounds to stop a future application if it is consistent with the RGS.
Attached is the colour map of the Official Community Plan from the West Vancouver website. If the RGS were changed to match this map, the RGS would be consistent with the OCP, as long as the Urban Containment Boundary is at the 1200 ft. line. West Vancouver’s bargaining position with British Properties to preserve forested lands below 1200 ft. through land swaps with areas above 1200 ft. in the proposed variation line, would also be much stronger if there was no Special Study Area.
We have been told by West Vancouver residents that they have been asking that all municipally owned lands in the Whyte Lake & Nelson Creek watershed should be added to Nelson Canyon Park as well as acquiring privately owned land within Nelson Creek/Eagle Creek watersheds to make a park. In fact the issue of trading land development above the 1200 ft elevation was so as to acquire lands in the Nelson Creek/Eagle Creek area. That area is presently used for Recreation and has high conservation values. It should be given the Recreation/Conservation designation as well under the RGS.
Please consider making the proposed changes to text recommended by the staff report. The RGS is a 30 year plan, we believe the wisest approach is to change the RGS to make it consistent with the Official Community Plan in order to protect the forests as intended under the Council and publicly supported OCP. These changes to the RGS should be made before West Vancouver accepts the RGS.
This letter is also endorsed by West Vancouver residents P. Hundal and B. McArthur.
Randy Helten, citizenYVR@gmail.com
Coordinator, CityHallWatch.ca and MetroVanWatch.ca