Not in the Plan

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Around noon on 10 April 2013, Vancouver City Council returned to “unfinished business” to approve the rezoning of 2220 Kingsway.

A restricted-access podium covers and walls off most of the 2.3 acre site. That physical feature of the development is far more offensive to Norquay residents than the three 14-storey towers that loom above. Still, the height of the development is out of human scale, and the massiveness was never anticipated in the resident-engaged Norquay planning of 2009.

Eye on Norquay appeared to be the only observer physically present during these proceedings at City Hall.

The main point of interest in this day-after-public-hearing discussion and vote was raised by Adriane Carr, the sole councillor not embedded in the Vision-NPA axis. The text of the Norquay Plan as approved by Council [1] offers no authority for a height of 14 storeys. Only for a height of 12 storeys.

Brian Jackson (General Manager, Planning and Development) was the only staff in the room. Almost as soon as the question was raised, he said that “Blackberry contact” was down and asked for time to summon other staff. Council declared recess. After a few minutes Jackson returned with planners Matt Shillito, Harv Weidner, and Grant Miller.

The only response from planning staff with regard to this official document was to point to “Consideration G” on page 2:

THAT Council amend the proposed Neighbourhood Centre Plan to increase the base building height allowable through rezoning in the Kingsway Rezoning Area from six- to eight-storeys to eight- to ten-storeys and to increase the allowable building density from approximately 3.2 FSR (net) to 3.8 FSR (net).

That text offers no support for allocating 14 storeys to 2220 Kingsway.

The cited authority for the 14-storey specification derives from two graphics (page 53 and page 54) embedded in a reworked presentation [2] of the Norquay Plan. See Appendix A and Appendix B below for direct access to those graphics.

It seems clear that the legal document itself was subsequently elaborated on to record what was desired by someone after the fact — but not what was stated at the time. This papered-over mess traces straight back to the hasty political agenda that saddled the Norquay Plan with major increases to height and density in October 2010 just before the rezoning was crammed down the throats of residents.

All too often the City of Vancouver seems to exploit inconsistency to mean what it wants to mean, and even then to exploit those inconsistencies inconsistently. Norquay has already seen provisional graphics used to override multiple instances of clear text [3]. One of the councillors mentioned a principle that text takes precedence over graphics. (If such a principle exists, it just got tossed out the window again.)

If the graphic on page 53 has such authority for justifying a height of 14 storeys, it seems strange that the same graphic gets dismissed as “just a sketch for illustration” when it comes to recording intention for the plaza that was supposed to accompany the development. This looks like an extreme case of having it both ways at the same time. (The “plaza” morphed into a “park” and got shoved off onto the extreme southwest corner of the site.)

One Vision councillor went on at some length about how it might be different if a “whack of people” had come out to the public hearing and had made a point of the two-storey discrepancy. Point one. There is abundant evidence that even many nights of speakers have little impact on done-deal rezonings, especially if the developer happens to be a major player. Point two. Those who speak up and say what is not wanted to be heard tend to get written off as unrepresentative of the silent majority. On the other side of that equation, the abuse suffered by those who attempt to participate usually leads to rapid disengagement. The lack of speakers that show up is then taken as evidence of contentment with the state of affairs.

That same councillor ruminated about what resided in personal memory from fall 2010. When you can’t discover what you want in the documentation, just dig into individual recollections. Isn’t that how everything legal is supposed to work?

Adriane Carr found good reason to vote against approval of the rezoning of 2220 Kingsway. Was it sheer coincidence that she is the only councillor whose election campaign funding was not seriously beholden to developer Westbank?

The autocracy and arbitrariness of City of Vancouver manipulation goes on and on.

[1]  Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan

[2]  Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan 2010

[3]  Landscaped Median #2

Appendix A  —  Page 53 Graphic


Appendix B  —  Page 54 Graphic



Written by eyeonnorquay

11 April 2013 at 9:31 am

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