Mayor Gregor broke the news last week that Telus will need a rezoning
Last week the announcement that Telus was about to construct a couple of big towers in downtown Vancouver garnered a lot of headlines. It also attracted the attention of Vancouver's Mayor who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Telus' CEO to make the announcement in front of a room full of media and company staff.
It's quite likely that Mayor Gregor wanted to attach himself to this announcement due to the fact it was full of "green" goodies. After all, the project includes lush rooftop gardens, low flow toilets and will eventually attain LEED platinum status. For heaven's sake, they even named the project "Telus Gardens".
Only a few blocks away, there is a tale of another tower. Paragon is in the midst of a controversial public hearing process regarding a proposal to construct a couple of towers next to the newly renovated BC Place. Proponents say the casino/hotel complex will create up to 1900 permanent jobs, generate $23 million dollars a year in revenue for city coffers and become a magnet to draw even more people into the entertainment district.
So was Gregor also seen at a news conference with Paragon trumpeting the benefits of their development? Nope. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that development doesn't have the same "green credentials" the other one does. Or that it is linked to the expansion of gambling.
The Mayor's public cheerleading of the Telus tower proposal has raised more than a few eyebrows at city hall over the last week or so. That's because I'm advised by another local developer that the Telus tower proposal will also have to go through a rezoning process. The project encompasses an entire city block.
Leading up to this public hearing, civic officials are required by law to "keep an open mind" before they make a final decision on whether they can support the development. That's likely why you rarely if ever see public officials attending developer sponsored news conferences, or championing one rezoning request over another.
With the knowledge that Mayor Robertson attended the news conference and was quoted everywhere in the media stating he supported the project, how can the public believe he will "keep an open mind" when it comes to this rezoning? To the outside world, it would appear that his Vision caucus have already made a decision to give this project a "green" light.
Just imagine if in a few months from now a community group decides to oppose part or all of the Telus Gardens project. Do you really think they will get a fair hearing from Vision Vancouver after they have already publicly declared the project has the support of the City?
In his drive to attach himself to everything green, Mayor Gregor may have forgotten there is also something called due process that needs to be adhered to in Vancouver. There is a time and a place to stand side-by-side with a developer seeking a re-zoning, and that's at the ribbon cutting ceremony when construction is set to begin.
Mayor Gregor's attendance at the news conference was likely a big blow to planning department staff who are now in the unenviable position of negotiating the finer details of this project with Telus. Who do you think is in the driver's seat when it comes to making demands? He's big, he's round and he looks like a hippo. As one city planner quipped "that news conference was the public hearing, why bother going through motions?"
What do you think? Was it appropriate for Mayor Gregor to be on stage with a developer asking for a rezoning? Should he be participating in media conferences with other developers seeking rezonings and permits from the City? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel