Yaletowners beat Vancouver city hall #LesTwarog

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Bob Mackin
Van. Courier

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has quashed a rezoning bylaw and development permit for a controversial downtown land swap and ordered city council to hold new public hearings.

Community Association of New Yaletown sought a judicial review of the deal cut with Brenhill Developments, for it to demolish the city’s Jubilee House at 508 Helmcken St. and build a 36-storey condominium tower in exchange for building a social housing complex on 1099 Richards St. CANY claimed the tower would be 4.5 times higher than the Downtown Official Development Plan allows.

CANY argued the city concocted a secret deal with Brenhill and should have publicly tendered the land. CANY also said the city breached the Vancouver Charter for failing to give the public fair opportunity to be heard.

Wrote Justice Mark McEwan in his Jan. 27 verdict: “The procedure the city adopted was unfairly restrictive, in presenting the public with a package of technical material that was opaque, compared to the material presented in court, in limiting comment on the integrated nature of the project, and in failing to provide an intelligible (i.e. where do the numbers come from?) financial justification for it.”

The 1985-built Jubilee House contains 87 units occupied by 89 residents, mostly war veterans, pensioners and welfare recipients.

“The petitioner submits that the city has misinterpreted its policy regarding the disposition of city lands which exempts land from public tender where the site disposed of will be used for social purposes,” said McEwan’s verdict. “It submits that 508 is now being used for social purposes, but that after the land exchange it will not be, and that accordingly the exchange is improper, and impairs the possibility of a “fully informed and reasoned discussion.”

McEwan called the city’s public hearing process flawed, because it took an “unduly restrictive view of the discussion” about the costs and benefits of the project to the city and its residents.

McEwan wrote that it “is impossible to tell whether the numbers have a real-world justification or are simply used to set up an offset that the proponents have chosen, to give the appearance of adequate consideration. In light of the scale of the zoning change and the trade-off of existing amenities for social housing, these things are more than just the City doing its ‘business.’

“A public hearing is not just an occasion for the public to blow off steam: it is a chance for perspectives to be heard that have not been heard as the City’s focus has narrowed during the project negotiations. Those perspectives, in turn, must be fairly and scrupulously considered and evaluated by council before making its final decision.”

McEwan ruled that CANY was entitled to the costs of the case, which was heard over four days last August.

The city’s development director, Brian Jackson, had no immediate comment. He said he was reviewing the decision.

© 2015 Vancouver Courier

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