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Metro Vancouver pressures cities to give the region more control

May 20th, 2009 · 16 Comments

I hadn’t been paying that much attention to Metro Vancouver’s growth plan for the next 30 years. That’s partly because it’s been in the works for eight years and it’s hard to feel like it’s going anywhere.

And also because there’s a temptation to believe that it will have the same impact as the livable region strategy — a nice idea that gets forgotten the minute some municipality in the region gets an attractive proposition from a developer. So although the plan has some interesting ideas, in particular the plan to create an industrial-land reserve, it hasn’t generated much media attention.

That’s what Metro Vancouver’s head guy is worried about and so he’s out trying to sell the plan to municipalities with a heavy-hitting message: give us some power to give this plan some teeth, otherwise there’s hardly any point to passing it.

Johnny Carline was a Vancouver city council yesterday, warning that “if Vancouver does not support this, then I doubt the rest of the region will.” And if Vancouver doesn’t support it, the plan will become “basically a amagazine article that you wave around.”

Carline pointed out that more than half of the development done during the 20 years of the Livable Region Strategy happened outside the regional town centres where growth was supposed to be targeted. That’s proof, he says, that if the region seriously wants to make sure that growth happens efficiently — that it goes into areas well-served by transit and doesn’t go into agricultural or industrial land — the Metro Vancouver board should get the power to veto any approvals for rezonings from industrial that don’t get 50 per cent support from the board. (Vancouver, by the way, gets 29 votes out of 104 in the weighted system at the board.)

This is an issue that is probably under a lot of people’s radar but it has city planners, politicians, and those alert to land issues somewhat worried. A system like this will mean anyone developing a project that requires a rezoning to go through two levels of approval — a process that will add a new level of onerousness to one that’s already fraught.

So what’s the problem if everyone agrees that industrial land should be saved? Well, Vancouver is looking at allowing some rezonings around its transit stations in order to get more density around them. Right now, there are several stations — and in particular the new Canada Line station on Marine Drive — set in the middle of industrial land.

Carline kept insisting the new system won’t be onerous and that it only brings in “the weakest implementation plan” to try to give the new rules some teeth. But there were sure a lot of questions at council about how this will work.

Councillors have to decide in the next week whether to support the plan. I can’t tell, from listening, which way they’re going to go.

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