Southlands Public Hearing (Tsawwassen) Update Nov 1 – a challenged process? Industry lobbying?

Southlands hearing Oct 2013, courtesy Delta Optimist(Update 11 pm, Nov 1 – Based on tweets by @adrianmacnair of the South Delta Leader, the hearing will resume at 10 am on Saturday, November 2. The hearing is roughly at speakers #350 of 450 signed up.)

Here is an update on this controversial public hearing.

In this post:

  • Ban on audio and video recordings?
  • Worthy of praise – quick written staff responses to questions
  • Industry-funded lobbying, coaching of speakers at a public hearing
  • Twitter storm on the #southlands public hearing

For previous coverage and key issues, please visit this post with media links, coverage, references, and this one with a letter by resident Greg Hoover raising many points.

The fourth night of the public hearing is underway now. Whatever the council’s decision, this rezoning is going to provide material for study in the future — regarding the roles of different players, lobbying actions of industry, the quality of information considered, and the actions of City Hall in Delta. And if the project is approved, the stage will then move to the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors, where the debate will continue.

For official information to the hearing, please visit this page, which we have saved in PDF for posterity. Delta – Southlands Official Community Plan Amendment Rezoning Application, 1-nov-2013

Note: Anyone who provided correspondence on this matter before July 30, 2013 and wishes it to be included in the public record for this Public Hearing should resubmit their correspondence prior to the conclusion of the Public Hearing. Council may not receive further submissions from the public or interested persons concerning the project after the Public Hearing has concluded. Write to: mayor-council@delta.ca.

Some reading for today.

TWITTER STORM ON THE #SOUTHLANDS REZONING. A lot of participants in the Public Hearing may not realize it, but an active discussion is going on in an alternate universe, the Twittersphere. See a sample of the tweets compiled by the Delta Optimist using Storify. http://www.delta-optimist.com/delta-s-southlands-hearing-lights-up-twitter-1.679754. We note that the most active among them is @bobransford, who admitted on Twitter to being a paid consultant on this rezoning application. Despite this admission, and despite several attempts over the years to get him to make public who he is working for — especially in the context of major and controversial rezoning applications — his Counterpoint Communications website “Clients” page still says “We Have Great Clients….. but we’re just putting the finishing touches on this section of the website. Stay tuned!”

MetroVanWatch believes that it would be a sign of high integrity if parties who are being paid or otherwise engaged by development proponents declare that connection, so that their public statements can be put into context. We appreciate the fact that Mr. Ransford has made that clear in the case of the #Southlands rezoning. At list in one tweet buried in there.

BAN ON VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDINGS?

Though MetroVanWatch has not been able to confirm it, apparently, Delta Mayor Lois Jackson on Day 3 (Oct 30) that Delta Mayor Lois Jackson announced a new policy decreeing that no private electronic video or audio recordings would be allowed to be made during the Public Hearing by private citizens. Only accredited journalists would have authority to film the proceeding. Mayor Jackson said they had received a legal opinion that would back this ban up. On Monday, Delta Cable was allowed to cover and broadcast the proceedings, which permitted many residents to watch on television. But when Delta Cable was not able to film the next nights, members of the public started to film the proceedings themselves with their phones and video cameras. If this is true, it seems to be a troubling action by Delta council, equivalent to censorship. At this moment, we are not sure if the ban is being enforced. UPDATE: It appears the ban is NOT in place and that Mayor Jackson was trying to say that no one could show a video at the meeting in lieu of speaking. To be confirmed.

WORTHY OF PRAISE: QUICK, WRITTEN STAFF RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

One thing that is laudable about this public hearing is that we find written responses by staff to questions raised at the Public Hearing. Other municipalities should consider following this example.

Public Hearing Q & A Responses

– See more at: http://www.corp.delta.bc.ca/EN/main/municipal/323/27003/southlands.html#hearing

INDUSTRY-FUNDED LOBBYING, COACHING OF SPEAKERS AT PUBLIC HEARING?

This to we have not confirmed, but word is spreading that the applicant of this rezoning may be engaged in coaching speakers. We are aware of similar cases in Vancouver. Communications experts funded by the developer, which could gain millions of dollars in profits by a rezoning, seek out and coach people to support the rezoning. Not a new game, but the public, public servants, and elected officials deserve to know when it is going on and what form it takes. At the very least everyone should be on alert for this kind of activity. Is it ethical? Does it compromise the integrity of a public hearing?

In many public hearings, observers may note that supporters of an otherwise controversial project appear to be “singing from the same song sheet.” In the case of the Southlands public hearing, there is speculation that the coaching meetings have occurred at the “Longhouse” nearby. Are these speakers being recruited, or even compensated, for supporting the project? 

Their script appears to be as follows:

  1. How long they have lived in Tsawwassen, and how many children they have, what schools they went to …. Getting as ‘folksy’.
  2. They confess that they are the infamous ‘Silent Majority’, but feel the irrepressible need to speak now.
  3. Why they choose to live in Tsawwassen, and how much they like living there …. ( who cares!)
  4. What business they have, even confessing to working for Century in a few cases
  5. Problems with affordable housing in Tsawwassen, leading into …
  6. How difficult it is for their children/other young people (e.g. employees of their business), to find places to live in Tsawwassen, (or themselves when they become seniors and wish to ‘downsize’)
  7. What a wonderful opportunity this Proposal provides for affordable housing to solve this problem
  8. How stagnant Tsawwassen is (shrinking school population, dying businesses, disappearing sports teams, etc.), and thus why we need more people.
  9. What a really nice guy Sean Hodgins is, and how lucky we are to have a developer who lives in the community and has its best interests at heart
  10. What a great deal this Proposal is for Tsawwassen, ‘gifting’ 80% of the land back to Delta, and at no cost
  11. If the Proposal is defeated, we will be saddled with either monstrous greenhouses, or a hog farm, or worse

Any mention of negatives about the project is obviously absent. For example:

  1. Floodplain considerations, etc. and related reasons for not building there.
  2. Municipal liability for the likely financial disaster, due to failed farming venture (urban farms), flooding, etc.
  3. Traffic  caused by 120,000 construction trucks coming down and then back up 56th Street, and across farmland on massive new road from 4th Avenue…. Effectively cutting farmland in half, and thus impacting viability of same.
  4. Continuing traffic issues even after construction stops, due to about 2,500 new cars on the road every morning, (950 X 2.5 cars per family), since cars are the only practical means of transportation in/out of Boundary Bay area (~4 km from Town Centre)
  5. High cost of housing due to very high costs of building there (cost of fill, etc., and needs to recoup investment).
  6. Wildlife values ignored entirely, especially IBA designation, Pacific Flyway, raptors, etc.
  7. Serious difficulties of ‘urban’ farming in the area ( 1 – 5 acre lots) as proposed, due to poor economics, high costs, unsuitable soils, etc. as described in Ministry of Agriculture letter by Kathleen Zimmerman, May 15, 2013
  8. Serious issues of incompatibility of having farms in close proximity with urban dwellers
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