Saturday, October 19, 2019

Scorched earth : 2 : council's authority
given away cheaply

This city council was elected on Oct. 24, 2018. Almost 30,000 votes were cast, 40% of eligible voters. This is council’s legitimacy, its authority and its responsibility to govern and guide Nanaimo in the interest of all citizens, in the interest of the greater public good.
Great responsibility comes with winning election to city council. This responsibility is not council’s to assign to another party, unelected and motivated by narrow special interest.
One of Nanaimo's most important and consequential land use decisions was made last week. But it was not made by our democratically elected local government, it was assigned to an organized vocal not-in-my-backyard group. This is a failure of leadership that will have negative consequences for years.
Under the stewardship of this young and inexperienced council this process was not guided to a better outcome that salvaged something for the greater public good. I’m concerned that our new council see themselves more as a passive advisory panel than the seat of local government authorized by tens of thousands of voters across every part of the city by citizens of every demographic.
The comments of councillors as published in the Nanaimo Bulletin require comment, as they seem naive and ill-informed. I’m concerned councillors are not getting good advice.
Councillor Ben Geselbracht worried that "Moving ahead with this project as is would be a break in the public trust in the city’s planning processes.” A fundamental principle in official community plans is the recognition that circumstances from, in this case, 15 years ago, will be reviewed and altered by future elected councils who will have the responsibility to adjust the plan to current circumstances. Failure to do that erodes the public trust in planning processes certainly. From the OCP:
To become an “official” community plan, the Plan must be adopted by City Council as a bylaw, and all future land use decisions must be consistent with the Plan. However, the Plan is a living document, and the City may amend the Plan to adapt to new trends in the community, or respond to changing conditions.
Councillors Ian Thorpe and Don Bonner were quoted that they were concerned about “spot zoning.” The red herring of the corridor designation aside, as Mayor Leonard Krog said, "I think everyone surely must have assumed at some point [this site] was going to be a significant multi-residential development.” The nature of the site, its size and location was always going to require special consideration.
“I simply do not see this as a corridor designation…” councillor Erin Hemens said. “This has three dead ends on it; it’s in the middle of the neighbourhood.” Point taken but why did councillor Hemens not have that concern addressed sooner in the process? As development director Lindsay told me, there was an alternative.
Councillor Tyler Brown said the development was a great proposal that met the goals of the transportation master plan, for example, but said the OCP is about the community’s wishes, not council’s. This and similar comments by other councillors is at best disingenuous. Councillor Brown and his colleagues accepted a responsibility to apply today’s 21st Century realities to (often cynically manipulated) planning documents from 15 and 25 years ago. The “community" by casting almost 30,00 votes assigned that responsibility exclusively to our local  government : city council. That responsibility is not council’s to relinquish to an unelected group that resists change. A failure of leadership.

Scorched earth : 1 : a failure of leadership

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