CityCaucus.com is pleased to welcome NPA city councillor Suzanne Anton for another guest editorial. As we enter into election season we extend a welcome to other municipal candidates to email us about presenting their commentary here in the months ahead.
Following the great casino debate and decision last week by Vancouver city council, many casino opponents and local media believed that council's vote stopped the casino. But contrary to that perception, Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council actually approved the new casino right where it was proposed beside BC Place stadium.
What was not permitted was the expansion – no increases of slot machines or tables. Mayor Robertson's stated objection to the casino expansion was that it did not fit with his greenest city goals. But by that logic, the Mayor should have voted down the casino altogether.
Surely if the downtown casino isn't green at one size, it's not green at any size.
The bigger issue for Vancouverites is why $1 billion worth of projects – all three of the major developments proposed for that area of Northeast False Creek – have stumbled or failed in the last few weeks.
Although the casino proposal attracted most of the public attention, the PavCo project was much bigger than that, involving two hotels (one mid-market and one high-end), seven restaurants and bars, convention space and retail, built in the heart of Vancouver's biggest entertainment district. It was a proposed half billion dollar investment providing thousands of jobs in construction and ongoing employment.
Future revenues for the complex had the potential of being extremely lucrative for the City and the Province ($20 million and $200 million per year respectively).
By not allowing the casino expansion (which I would have personally supported), the Mayor has sent the entire project back to the drawing boards after three years of working its way through the system.
However, it is not just the PavCo project which is now in doubt. The neighbouring Concord project (5B east) is tied to the PavCo site, and can't proceed until it is resolved. And the site next to that (5B west) was turned back by council several weeks ago because the community was so unhappy with the benefits package negotiated by the City.
In total over the three projects, many years of work, untold costs by the City and the applicants, and almost $1 Billion investment have been put at risk. Worse, it sends an unwelcome signal to others who might want to invest in our city and help to create jobs.
It takes strong political leadership to ensure that major investments like these meet the needs of the city as well as the local community. Problems need to be identified early and staff need clear direction before they reach the critical stages. It is far better for everyone if contentious issues are dealt with in advance and community concerns addressed long before we get to public hearings.
Not every proposal is a good one. But to maintain and grow economic prosperity here we can't put more large projects like these at risk. When the private sector is willing to invest a billion dollars in housing, create jobs and support local businesses, it's the Mayor's responsibility to ensure those funds are captured for the city and channeled into projects that will benefit everyone.
The future of our city depends upon it.
- post by NPA City Councillor Suzanne Anton. Follow her @SuzanneAnton on Twitter.