City council passed a motion on July 8 to create a Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee, despite opposition from some community members who feel they were neither consulted nor informed.
“It is an attempt toward an innovative process to discuss key issues and think outside the box, but I think it’s a bit premature,” West End resident Randy Helten told council, urging councillors to reconsider the motion.
The motion, put forward by Mayor Gregor Robertson earlier in the week, called for the creation of a city-appointed committee chaired by Vision Vancouver councillors Andrea Reimer and Tim Stevenson.
While there will be an open call for nominations to sit on the 12-person committee, the Vision councillors will ultimately select the committee’s members.
“This is not what democracy is about,” said COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who opposed the motion.
“Seven thousand people have said on a petition that they don’t want any more spot rezoning; that they want a visioning process. That’s the most clear statement this council has ever received,” Woodsworth said.
“There was no consultation,” agreed NPA councillor Suzanne Anton.
Woodsworth is concerned the creation of a Mayor’s West End Advisory Committee could bump the West End off the list of neighbourhoods being considered for an updated community vision plan.
“If there’s already a mayor’s task force working on [West End] issues, why would they allocate additional staff?” she asked.
The mayor said that concern is unfounded.
“It [the advisory committee] is absolutely not a planning process,” Robertson said. “It is meant to be an interim step to enable the community to better consider input.”
Stevenson said he was surprised by the community’s opposition to the committee but agreed the motion lacked clear information about how the selection process will be conducted.
“That was kind of left hanging there,” he said.
But Stevenson promised the selection process will be “open and encompassing a wide demographic.”
Asked if the committee will include representation from the gay community, Stevenson said “nothing is written in stone,” adding he is unsure how the selection process will unfold.
Though he didn’t attend yesterday’s council meeting, Brent Granby of the West End Residents Association supports the motion and is optimistic the new citizens’ advisory committee will create needed dialogue between city council and the West End.
Helten remains skeptical.
“The Vision mayor and councillors let down the citizens of Vancouver,” he maintains.
Helten thinks the motion was quickly passed “without allaying fears that it could be used to fast-track the rubberstamping of rezoning applications. They didn’t address serious questions about the member selection process, transparency and accountability,” he says.
Council also voted on July 8 to be more transparent regarding the reporting of the value of density bonuses and land lifts when rezoning.