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Board of Variance in the ring again with city hall

September 26th, 2009 · 8 Comments

I’m posting here three documents from former Board of Variance member (as of extremely recently) Ray Tomlin about his removal from said board.

I haven’t had a chance to call anyone on this yet, but the documents include a memo and letter from city manager Penny Ballem stating her case, so I’ll count on you, my audience of Kremlinologists, to decipher what’s going on.




It’s all very strange. For a decade, I covered the Board of Variance and you never heard boo about it, except grumbling at the occasional party about how some neighbour or another had managed to “get away” with permission to build an extension or deck.

Then the last council got rid of the Board of Variance entirely, kicking off a process that ended up with a Supreme Court judgment that restricted the scope of the Board.

And now this.

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  • Roger Brant

    Prior to reading Charlie Smith’s Georgia Straight article this morning I had no idea the Board Of Variance was in such a mess. I know Ray Tomlin from a few years back, and I know him to be an honourable, principled person. When he was appointed to the Board of Variance he was most appreciative of the opportunity to represent the public interest in such crucial matters. He is a learned, hard working man with good morals and ethics. What he has the “bad luck” to be, it seems, is a whistle blower, since City Council, it would appear, doesn’t like to hear the sound of whistles being blown.

    I believe this is an urgent matter which may in fact represent the destruction of one of the City’s most cherished municipal institutions. If the current circumstance prevails, citizens face a very real threat of losing their last route of appeal on any decisions of the Planning Department over which they are aggrieved.

    I think it is most timely (and in a sense, VERY troubling) to see such meddling in the workings of what is, in a very real sense, the “court of last resort” for Vancouver citizens as regards their neighbourhoods. There’s a lot of talk going on about making us into a “world class city” but heavy-handed, secretive actions like these at the Board of Variance make me fear we will end up being ruled by the moneyed elite, the powerbrokers, developers, and land barons. Where is the citizens’ voice right now? It is being suppressed and the City Charter is being flouted to achieve this suppression. These are serious allegations Mr. Tomlin has made, and now that he has been forced off the board, I think that the media should do its utmost to query this action, unmask the hidden agenda(s), unmask the vested interests, and unlock the doors of this “inner chamber” the way it is supposed to be open to public scrutiny. We, the citizens, need to know just what is happening. This is an outrageous assault on democracy

  • Do I remember correctly?

    The planning department insigated legal proceeding to evict Salisbury Gardens?

    So much for “greening” the city . . .

  • PS Contrary to the decision of its own Board of Variance!

  • Based on some of Ray Tomlin’s earlier comments about his removal from the Board of Variance by the NPA (with which I did not agree), I am cautious about commenting on the appropriateness of his concerns regarding his dismissal by this Vision Council.

    However, I do note that Council did agree to review the allegations in his 10 page memo, some of which raise concerns about the structural relationship between the planning department and the Board of Variance.

    Having served for 6 years on the Development Permit Board Advisory Panel, and had occasion to appear before the Board of Variance on a limited number of occasions, I have personally questioned whether staff are often forced into a ‘conflict of interest’ when they present the rationale for the planning department’s decision on a particular matter to the BofV.

    I have also believed that from time to time, the Board of Variance has overstepped its mandate when it effectively become an ‘appeal board’ to decisions by the Development Permit Board.

    I would suggest that those who regularly appear before the BofV read Tomlin’s concerns. While I understand that he is not a lawyer, he certainly raises some interesting concerns. While I do not entirely agree with his assertion that the Board members should visit every site together (this is the age of google maps and video cameras), I look forward to any public comments by Ray Young, respected legal council to the BofV, on the merits, if any, of some of his other arguments.

  • spartikus

    From the second document:

    Ms. Prosken finds herself in a structural conflict of interest. According to the City of Vancouver Community Services Organizational Chart, Ms. Prosken directly oversees Development Services and Planning. As the individual to whom the Director of Planning and Developmental Services is answerable to, Ms. Prosken emerges as one of the final authorities on Planning in the City of Vancouver.

    Prosken was the former head of HR at the Library, and before that the HR Director for the City of Winnipeg.

    Other than being a career administrator, nothing suggests any urban planning qualifications or experience.

  • Vision appointed Mr. Tomlin to the Board of Variance and therefore they must also have the rights to dismiss him, provided Mr. Tomlin’s rights and reputation are respected and all procedures are followed correctly.

    I am deeply concerned, however, about the allegations of impropriety he has raised concerning the final arbiter of multi-million-dollar disputes between the City and its developers at a time of massive new developments about to impact False Creek North and Downtown South among other neighbourhoods.

    I am also surprised to learn about the heavy-handed tactics employed to try and silence Mr. Tomlin, which in and of themselves lend credence to the seriousness of his allegations.

    The City should immediately empower an independent body to investigate the facts and report back to Council and the public on the serious issues raised in Mr. Tomlin’s memo. It seems to me that would be the only way to remove the cloud now hanging over the City’s planning process.

  • Fred

    Commissar Ballem is carrying out the orders of the Stavka with appropriate zeal and should be rewarded with an appropriate dacha in a nice area.

    She is a great asset in the People’s War (so well funded by the our mayor’s Americanski Richy-Richy Brigade HQ) against the Reactionary Aparatchiks that believe competency and democracy are valuable in operating the city.

  • gmgw

    Spartikus said:
    “Prosken was the former head of HR at the Library, and before that the HR Director for the City of Winnipeg.

    Other than being a career administrator, nothing suggests any urban planning qualifications or experience.”

    Her pre-management career, in Winnipeg, was in social work. She has no experience in urban planning that I’ve ever heard of.