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BC Place casino will have to go through a rezoning

March 16th, 2010 · 8 Comments

I wasn’t quite sure what the procedure would have to be on this, so I checked and, yes, the casino being planned for BC Place, even if it’s just transferring over from Edgewater, will have to be approved by council after public hearings and a rezoning.

It will be interesting to see how much public debate this generates. Councillor Raymond Louie, who participated in some long and impassioned debates over casinos and slots during his first term, when slots were approved at both Edgewater and Hastings Park, says he thinks the public mood has mellowed a little, now that people see that casinos haven’t brought many of the negative consequences that were feared.

One thing I am wondering about, then, as I read the stories about the “deal being inked” is how much of an expectation this sets up that the province will get to have whatever it wants there? Theoretically, the deal can’t be inked until the city okays the use on the site. Is this news trickling out a way of forcing the city’s hand — making them look like the bad guys if they turn it down?

For those who want a trip down memory lane, here’s a July 1994 story by Jeff Lee in the Vancouver Sun about the opposition to the old waterfront casino that Steve Wynn planned so ambitiously with the then-NDP government.

Opponents of a Vancouver waterfront casino complex were to march on city hall today to demand that council quash Mirage Resorts Inc.’s plan for a Las Vegas-style gambling hall.

But Mayor Philip Owen is putting the kibosh on plans by an anti-casino group to address council during its last scheduled meeting before September.

Owen said he will not allow members of the No Casino Coalition to make speeches to council because he does not want to jeopardize a city-funded gaming-impacts study.

“There won’t be any delegations at council,” he said. “Until we get all the information, I don’t know how we can listen to a pocket of eight or nine people who represent special interests. I’d say this is a decision that is of interest to everyone.”

But organizers of the rally are confident several hundred protesters will deliver their message that Vancouver should reject the casino component of the Seaport Centre project.

“We don’t care if council hears us or not. This is an opportunity for everyone to show that they are concerned, that this is not just some fringe group,” said Hart Molthagen, one of the rally organizers.

Said lawyer Connie Fogal: “They will hear us one way or another, if not inside council, then outside where we will hold the rally.”

The coalition has picked nine representatives of the business, clergy, trade union and academic communities to appeal directly to council to halt the casino project.

The names include major community leaders: retired economics professor Robert Clark; Canadian Auto Workers director Jess Succamore; Catholic priest Jim Roberts; UBC professors Michael Seelig and Susan Burns; Science World fund raiser and developer Haig Farris; chartered accountant David Gray; Fogal; and Molthagen, a past chair of Tourism Vancouver and ex-president of the Vancouver Hotel Association.

Fogal said they represent all walks of life that will be affected if construction of the Seaport Centre casino is allowed to proceed.

The group has also added the voice of MLA David Mitchell, an independent Liberal, who said on Monday that stopping the casino was of interest to more than just Vancouver people.

“This is more than just a city issue. This is a provincial issue,” Mitchell said.

In a reference to Premier Mike Harcourt and Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, both ex-Vancouver mayors who have yet to indicate where they stand on the casino, Mitchell appealed to Owen to give direction.

“I am hoping Mayor Owen will show more leadership than his predecessors, and do the right thing. I am hoping he will say no to the casino. `’

Three NDP MLAs from Vancouver have also said they are opposed to the casino. They are Tom Perry, Bernie Simpson and caucus chair Ujjal Dosanjh.

But Owen held out no hope that council would hear the delegations. Not only does council have a policy of not hearing delegations, but it also will wait until a $40,000 casino-impacts study is completed by city staff this fall, he said.

“The bottom line is a process has been established, and we are going to complete that process,” Owen said.

The rally comes a week after Seaport Centre officials met with Mirage chair Steve Wynn in Las Vegas to contemplate their options. Earlier, a Mirage official expressed frustration that the provincial government is refusing to meet with the developers. At the same time, Wynn is considering building a $1.2-billion entertainment theme park and casino in Toronto.

Seaport Centre officials did not return phone calls Monday.

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