When are Politicians going to wake up and accept the need for and the result of public consultation? The Surrey Casino process is but a tell-tale sign of a much bigger problem!.

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

Public Hearings are an integral part of Municipal Governance, unfortunately all too often politicians treat this requirement with disdain and pay lip service to those who take the time to appear before council or sign petitions. And we wonder WHY taxpayers are jaded with their elected representatives!

The problem? Many elected politicians think they were elected because they are smarter than those that elected them? NEWSFLASH – NO , we elect representatives, NOT dictators. It’s called democracy! 

Last week Surrey Municipal Council was the latest victim of Provincial Government Political Interference (Minister Rich Coleman’s phone calls to Council members during a Public Hearing process); Congratulations to Mayor Watts for standing up for her community, voting against the Casino! Rich Coleman as of February 1st claims he did no wrong? Well, what can I say, he just doesn’t get it! One has to ask the question, why is the BC Lottery Commission and it’s Minister so involved in this project; it should be the DEVELOPER who leads and wears the process. Rich Coleman as Minister of the Crown is the REGULATOR; he has absolutely no business being involved. – Could there be another reason? I don’t know, I am just asking?

I want to congratulate Mayor Watts for doing what she felt was right in casting a vote against the Casino development in South Surrey. It had to be a very tough decision, on one hand it would mean considerable revenue for Surrey but very easy on the other hand, she is listening to the voters of Surrey. I am not speaking for or against the Casino – I am saluting Dianne for having the guts to make THE very difficult decision.

Rich Coleman – I know this is hard for you to understand because you have never let it to get in the way before, (HST, Smart Meters to name a few) but it is called DEMOCRACY, the people’s right to be heard! This is what the Public Hearing Process is all about, god forbid we have to explain that (democracy) to those at the Provincial level.

Traditional Public Hearing / B.C. Community Charter – For the record; the process for a traditional development to proceed under the B.C. Community Charter requires the Municipality to formulate a by-law and for that by-law to receive 1st and 2nd reading by a Municipal Council majority before it can go to a Public Hearing. Receiving 1st and 2nd reading, it then must be advertised in the local paper, circulation of a notice to the immediate area in addition to signage being posted on the affected property with the necessary detail about the project prior to the upcoming Public Hearing. Council members can receive public input before and during the Public Hearing either by personal verbal and/or written presentation, but they cannot receive input in anyway after the termination of the Public Hearing until third reading (approval in principle or rejection) is voted on and dealt with by Council.

Other Consultation – There are other Public Consultation forums offered by some municipalities, public council delegations and/or public meetings among them. As a politician, if you are going to take the opportunity to ask the public’s opinion either mandated or optional, then I get the sense more than ever in today’s world (the way it should be) you had better start to listen and hear, otherwise you WILL pay the price. For those in the Provincial Government (B.C. Liberals) who do not seek public input and consultation, listen or hear (HST, Smart Meters, B.C. Rail among so many other issues) there is no question you WILL pay the price!

A few Interesting examples out of recent and past History –

Spetifore / Southlands (Public Hearing) – Tsawwassen – In 1987 I was elected Alderman in the Municipality of Delta. During this term, we faced the electorate over a proposed development by-law to designate the approximate 800 acres of Spetifore Lands in South Delta Urban. These lands go back to a controversial Social Credit Cabinet “Order in Council” withdrawing  these lands from the ALR. The Spetifore family were very long standing supporters of Social Credit. At the time I was Vice President of the Delta Social Credit Constituency Association with over 2,200 members (I was in the crosshairs of opponents). We supported 1st and 2nd reading and went into the Public Hearing process which still holds the Canadian record for Public Hearings – 108 hours – the proposal was denied unanimously – I moved the motion to deny 3rd reading! It is called listening to the public even though throughout the process we worked with the proponent to present what we thought would be a good option to be considered by the public. As a Council we did not have or feel any obligation to the proponent to support the proposal at the end of the Public Hearing process, absolutely not. Was the proponent disappointed, absolutely, but that is the process and they knew it. By the way, our very pro free enterprise council did not receive any bullying or threats by the then Social Credit Government or anyone else.

Mufford Crescent Diversion (Public Meeting / Open Houses) – Langley – In 2008 one of many reasons I ran for the Mayor’s office was the secret planning and development of the Mufford Crescent Diversion which was going to funnel 500 cars an hour onto 64th at 216th, unknown to anyone until we discovered what was happening and notified property owners east of 216th Street. No public consultation, not even notification or advice! I promised during the election that I would bring this back for public consultation. Two Open Houses and a Public Meeting later that saw over 1,000 people involved with at least a 95% opposition, the Council of the day voted on two occasions 6 – 3 in favor of the project. (Given the incident in Surrey with Rich Coleman contacting members of Council, is there any chance he contacted members of our Council prior to our vote? Not accusing anyone, just asking the question?) Three weeks into my term as Mayor I received a very public letter from Kevin Falcon the then Minister of Transportation with an ultimatum, this is the only plan they will consider otherwise they will withdraw their funds and move the funds to another Municipality. My answer was, don’t threaten us we will not be intimidated. (Provincial Government Political Interference – sound familiar?) Despite Council votes in favor, the ALC rejected this planned route seeing serious flaws in the proponents written presentation. (A full post on this issue at a later date)

Athenry Development / Willoughby (Development Permit Public Hearing) – During the week of Nov. 22nd, 2010 I became aware of an agenda item (Athenry Developments) scheduled for a “Development Permit” Public Hearing on Monday November 29th, 2010 which had received 1st and 2nd reading, public hearing and 3rd reading (conditional approval) in June of 2008 prior to my election as Mayor. In doing my due diligence in preparation for the upcoming Public Hearing I researched this project and it’s history, through a variety of Staff Reports. I was frankly shocked in finding the project that was proposed and given the appropriate readings, including Public Hearing bared no resemblance in my opinion to what was before us at Development Permit Stage and 4th and final reading. Changes can only be made after 3rd reading in Form, Character and Design. These changes in my opinion did not qualify!.

The original June 2008 approved project was for one building located roughly in the center of the property while the 2010 version was for three, four story apartment buildings, a two story office building and a Cultural Center. This change impacted all surrounding private homes severely with a dramatically reduced set back, increased height of buildings and close imposition immediately next to surrounding homes. In my opinion and experience this was and is a travesty that happened to local hard working taxpayers. (NOTE – As I understand it, the affected residents had launched legal action but withdrew without giving up their right for taking action in the future.) Due to their position they have been denied access to speak to directly to councilors (They must go through Township lawyers) about ongoing problems with the development that has so dramatically affected their quality of life and home values!

For any residents reading this and wondering what their reaction might be IF they were in the same position, I can assure you, anyone with a pulse would be marching on the Municipal Hall. It is an absolute outrage! (A Full Post on this issue at a later date)

Township of Langley Public Hearing / Consultation process – 

The Township of Langley has over a long period of time created a culture of ignoring public input, either in Public Hearings or Meetings. While in office I encouraged public debate, dialogue (Monthly Mayor’s informal forums) and community involvement, much to the chagrin of members of Council. The planned 208th St. Truck Route making it part of the Translink MRN (Major Road Network) is a case in point. I encouraged residents, IF they did not want that to happen to involve the community! They took up my challenge – Involve the community they did, a 2,200 name petition and 700 resident turnout to an Open House at the LEC will do it every time. Show me a community that doesn’t stand up for each other and fight for what they want and I will show you a community that is dying!

You have to look at the record of the majority of the current members of council, ask yourself just who are they working for and who are they looking after? Aside from the issues I talked about earlier, consider:

  • The infamous condominium wall at Bedford Landing in Fort Langley, among a number of problems adding a 4th floor at 4th reading / development permit stage was approved while completely ignoring a very large opposition from the community – WHY?
  • The Forewest Development on the bottom of the Willoughby Slopes. Staff worked with the developer and made an attempt in my last year in office to change the OCP and complete a rezoning (two by-laws) in one process that would completely change the density and character of this community. With a very strong opposition it was turned down. With very little change from the original proposal this development was brought back in front of the New Council, received strong opposition and it was approved. Ask yourself WHY?
  • Fort Langley is one of the most unique communities in the Province of B.C. It’s heritage protection has been paramount as the Township of Langley has grown over the years. Recently, a building development (Coulter Berry Building) proposal on the old IGA site that contravened several of Fort Langley’s preservation guidelines received approval. It was too tall by 4.5 meters, site coverage that exceeded the allowable limit and it was contrary to the town’s main street heritage character. Approval was given despite wide spread opposition of a 950 person petition and 2 – 1 in opposition at the 2 evening Public Hearing. (There is only roughly 2,500 that live in Fort Langley)

Now the kicker – Eric Woodward, the owner of the Coulter Berry building, a Township of Langley appointee to the Heritage Advisory Committee, President of the Fort Langley BIA, fellow resident with Jack Froese in Bedford Landing and a donor of $2,000 to Jack Froese in the last election received approval! Only in the Township of Langley you say!

As hard as the following comments are to believe they tell an interesting story of the contempt the Mayor of the Township of Langley Council has for Public Hearings and Public Consultation – the residents of Surrey have to be very thankful that their Mayor and Council represent their views!

(Pete McMartin Vancouver Sun) Nov. 29/12

Mayor Froese was asked why he voted for it despite the evidence of so much local opposition states:

  • “he does not govern by petition”.

Of the preponderance of speakers opposing the variance at the official hearings Mayor Froese states:

  • “We really have to listen to the silence of the people who didn’t come out.”

Pete McMartin states “How Froese intuited that this absent cohorts silence was in favor of the Coulter Berry development and not against it, or split down the middle, is a mystery I will leave with him. Politicians have powers of the mind I cannot fathom.” Despite the size of the opposition only one councilor voted against, it sure says something about what is going on, doesn’t it!

I am going to be more to the point – Is Mayor Froese at all well? This kind of thinking for someone in the Mayor’s chair is unconscionable. Go back to my opening – Many elected politicians think they were elected because they are smarter than those that elected them, well here is the proof. This kind of thinking is unmitigated garbage, all taxpayers should be outraged!

So let’s see if we understand what is going on – Apparently Mayor Froese doesn’t make decisions based on petitions, he doesn’t make decisions based on speakers at a Public Hearing – So WHY DO WE HAVE PUBLIC HEARINGS? – We will just have Mayor Froese and his Council colleagues determine what is best for the Township based on their seemingly special powers. (Other municipalities and cities apparently lack this special insight) It is a pathetic excuse for Municipal Governance !!

There is much more that could be said and examples that could be shown. It is long past due that the taxpayers in the Township of Langley unite in opposition against the Township of Langley Municipal Council’s continuous willingness to proceed with developments despite the will of the people they represent. What is it going to take to motivate the taxpayers in the Township????

RG

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It is hard to keep up with all the issues being presented by this council but my late week Post will deal with the subversion of democracy in Council Chambers, for those elected or for those that just want to know what is going on!

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE !!!

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Comments
  1. Mei Lin Yeoell says:

    Oh my!! Love it… Mei Lin

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