Past precedents on referral motions during Public Hearings in Vancouver

Here is a two minute clip of a motion by Councillor Adriane Carr  during the Public Hearing on the Rize, to send the application back for more work. Chair of the meeting, Mayor Gregor Robertson, ruled the referral motion as out of order and that the meeting must proceed:

Councillor Raymond Louie is the first says that a motion to refer cannot be accepted, then Mayor Robertson consults with City Clerk Janice Mackenzie Mackenzie and City Manager Penny Ballem, then rules the referral out of order.

The case of a referral back to staff by Councillor Tim Stevenson on May 24, 2016, regarding 3365 Commercial, creates new problems of ambiguity. These need to be cleared up.

In democracy at the municipal level in Vancouver, the top two opportunities for citizens to directly get involved in decisions are (1) elections, which now occur every four years, in which voters elect their officials for City Council, and (2) public hearings, where elected officials on City Council are required by law to “hear” the public. We are therefore following this case closely with series of posts. The pieces of the puzzle may create a picture.

On May 24, 2016, four city councillors walked out of a Public Hearing regarding a rezoning application for 3365 Commercial Drive, which was at the final stages where Councillors state how they are going to vote. Two of seven present had already spoken. Five were left, and then the vote was to come. In past cases, the chair has stated, after conferring with staff about a motion to refer the Public Hearing back for further work, that a decision must be made, Yes or No, then and there.

Over the past several years, some Councillors would have liked to make motions to refer specific questions back to staff during a Public Hearing, and were told that their motion was out of order, or chose not to make the motion, based on precedents as the Rize case above.

However, there are examples of where Council essentially voted no and referred an application back to staff. One was for the Heritage Revitalization Agreement for the 1245 Harwood site in Vancouver’s West End (formerly the Legg Residence) on May 31, 2011: (Regular Council meeting, the ‘no’ part of vote  was not recorded in the minutes, as recorded below)

2. Heritage Designation/Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA):
1245 Harwood Street

MOVED by Councillor Louie

THAT staff be directed to consider further options for the Heritage Designation and Heritage Revitalization Agreement at 1245 Harwood Street which might include the retention of the large tree shared with the neighbour, given the expressed willingness of the adjacent owner to cooperate in its retention.
(Councillors Anton and Meggs opposed)

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