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West End group aims to scrutinize mayor’s committee

Launches online guide

An online guidebook to scrutinize the city’s rules and regulations regarding the mayor’s West End Advisory Committee has been launched by a community non-profit group concerned about the development of high rises and radical rezoning in its neighbourhood.

“I felt that the committee is very, very significant, and it’s really important that it functions well,” says Randy Helten of West End Neighbours (WEN), an ad hoc group of citizens who oppose radical rezoning in the West End.

The guide is posted on WEN’s website.

Helten says he posted the guide after gathering information from various West End groups during meetings held this summer. He hopes the guide is informative “so that people who apply or are selected [for the committee], or even just want to monitor it, have their eyes open.”  

Helten says the code of conduct and terms of reference established to govern the committee are too vague.

The guide poses questions for people to think about, Helten explains.

“There are real questions regarding what the role [of the committee] will be,” agrees COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who supports WEN’s online guide. “They are not to comment on spot rezoning. They are not a visioning process and they are not accountable to council,” she says. “I think the more the community discusses these things and says what they truly want, the better the results will be,” she adds.

Woodsworth, who voted against the motion for the committee, wants a visioning plan for the West End. She says the mayor told her the West End won’t have a plan for the next few years, adding she wouldn’t be surprised if the committee was a bargaining chip offered to the community in lieu of a visioning plan this fall.

But Vision Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson denies that the committee is a substitute for a community plan.

“The West End isn’t at the top of the [visioning plan] list and staff has made that very clear,” he says. But it’s “not a replacement for a community plan [and] it was never intended to be so,” he says.

“The mayor is doing everything he can to be transparent and open and engaging,” says Stevenson, adding that the city’s terms of reference are “quite clear.”

The advisory committee was approved by council vote on July 8 and it will be made up of a dozen community representatives charged with gathering an updated list of community priorities, including new residential development issues.

But while the committee works as a liaison between the community and the city, the city has been adamant that its role is not to make decisions regarding pending developments like the one proposed for 1401 Comox St.

“There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding among people that the committee will be discussing Comox St and that’s not the case,” media spokesperson Kevin Quinlan recently told Xtra. “We’ve always been clear that the mayor’s advisory council was not a review panel or decision-making body for any developments in the city.”

But on Aug 31, the mayor put a hold on developments planned for the Comox site, pending further community consultation.

The application deadline for the West End Advisory Committee was Sept 10. Applicants for the committee will be hand picked by Vision councillors Tim Stevenson and Andrea Reimer.

Stevenson says the city received more than 40 applications. “There has been a tremendous response from the West End community and that’s fabulous,” he says. Stevenson couldn’t say when the names of the successful applicants will be announced, but says a decision will be made by the end of the year.