Monumental battle over? Or just a pause? Council approves 508 Helmcken re-rezoning in 6-3 split vote, races to approve bylaw in 23 hours. What about Court of Appeal hearing?

508 Helmcken, artist's rendering

508 Helmcken, artist’s rendering

(Update at end of Day 1: B.C. Supreme Court, Room 60Thurs April 16 and Fri April 17 — The City of Vancouver’s appeal of the Jan. 27 B.C. Supreme Court decision (which quashed a CD-1 rezoning, ordered a re-do of public hearing, quashed a development permit and changes to Downtown Official Development Plan) is being heard at the BC Court of Appeal. The case started at 10 am Apr 16 with the citizens’ lawyer Nathalie Baker asking the three judges to declare the appeal “moot” as City Council had already re-approved all of the above except the enabling bylaw. The City’s lawyers argued that they still wanted to appeal the Jan 27 ruling. The judges decided to hear both sides. The case continues Friday April 17 at 10 am in Room 60, with CANY’s lawyer making her case, followed by the final response from the City and then Brenhill. Citizens are encouraged to observe the proceedings. Chief Justice Robert James Bauman, Mr. Justice Peter M. Willcock, Mr. Justice Richard Goepel. Case CA42560 COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION OF NEW YALETOWN v. BRENHILL DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED , Hearing of Appeal from McEwan, J.)

As we reported in “Monumental battle set for Public Hearing April 14 on 508 Helmcken: City actions & policies have created huge divisions in Vancouver,” City Council was forced by B.C. Supreme Court to conduct a Public Hearing due to botched procedures the first time around for this 34-storey tower proposed on City land in Emery Barnes Park.

Just moments ago, at about 5:49 pm, Council re-approved  the rezoning with a vote of 6 FOR (Vision Vancouver plus Councillor DeGenova) and 3 OPPOSED (Clrs Ball, Affleck and Carr). In the final seconds of the meeting, Mayor Gregor Robertson, as chair of the meeting, abruptly announced this:

SPECIAL Council Meeting
4:30 pm, Thursday, April 16, 2015
Purpose: To adopt the necessary bylaw to enact this rezoning

This is less than 23 hours ahead. The Mayor stated that this constituted the public notice of the meeting as required by law. As of 6 pm, the notice was not posted on the City website.

It is not clear to us exactly how this procedure will interact with the Supreme Court hearing for the City’s appeal of the original Court decision overturning the rezoning. It looks like the City’s ploy was simply a strategic legal move to deflect pressure, while staff worked quickly to patch up botched processes and ram the decision through. The Georgia Straight provides a bit of commentary on this matter in “Urban planners and academics wade into Yaletown land swap fight” (by Carlito Pablo, 14-April-2015), the conclusion of which we excerpt, in part, below:

In his decision on January 27, 2015, Justice Mark McEwan concluded that the public hearing and the development-permit processes were “flawed” because the city didn’t disclose all relevant information to the public. McEwan ordered the city to hold a new public hearing on 508 Helmcken Street, which council is set to do on April 14.

The judge also required another DPB review on the 1099 Richards Street project, which the DPB did on April 7. The DPB’s approval will be considered by council on April 15.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Court of Appeal, on April 16 and 17, will hear appeals filed by the city and Brenhill on McEwan’s ruling.

Should council agree anew with the rezoning of 508 Helmcken on April 14 and endorse the DPB’s latest approval of the 1099 Richards Street project, there will be practically nothing left to argue about before the appeal court in the following days.

In the end, city hall will have won.

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