Regional Context Statement

RCS mappitymap straight - 4-Jun-2013The Regional Context Statement – Official Development Plan is one of the most important documents ever for the City of Vancouver. Vancouver City Council adopted the RCS on  June 11, 2013, despite a vast majority of public speakers and letters against it.

If you haven’t heard about the RCS, you are not alone.

The City of Vancouver’s handling of the Regional Growth Strategy, Regional Context Statement, and Official Development plan may some day go down as one of the biggest violations of the public trust in Vancouver history.

Beyond the nice pictures and words, the RCS, RGS and ODP are powerful policy documents that govern land use decision-making, affecting all facets of life in the region. What they have not explained is as important as what they have — regarding decision-making processes, implications, authority, and communities’ influence in their own futures.

If you do one thing about this, please consider sending this message, with your own adaptations, to mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca.

I am opposed to the Regional Context Statement and Official Development Plan as currently proposed.

There has been no public consultation process prior to referral of the plan to public hearing. I therefore request that this important document not be approved until a broad, comprehensive and meaningful consultation process has been undertaken, and that there is demonstrated strong public support, possibly through a referendum, for the plan and any regional designations. Currently there is no informed consent from the citizens of Vancouver for this proposed plan or the related transfer or increased influence of land use authority from the City of Vancouver to the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD/Metro Vancouver), TransLink or the Province of BC.

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OFFICIAL INFORMATION

MORE READING

The draft RCS-ODP went before City Council on April 23, 2013, without prior consultation. Council then referred it to Public Hearing scheduled for June 11. A single Open House was held at City Hall on May 16. Publicity and public outreach was virtually zero. It appears there was a media blackout on the topic. It is very unusual for an open house to be held AFTER a major policy has been referred to a Public Hearing. The City has not explained clearly how public input will be reflected in the Public Hearing process.

References:

Under “Regional Growth Strategy” (RGS), Metro Vancouver’s powerful land-use bylaw, quietly adopted in 2011, the City of Vancouver is expected to adopt a detailed “Regional Context Statement” (RCS) by July 29, 2013. Considering their scope of influence and time window of thirty years, the RGS and RCS could be described as the most important land use policy documents ever created at the regional and municipal levels, respectively. The public has a right and a need to know more, and we believe that to fulfill the City of Vancouver Code of Conduct, City staff and elected officials have an ethical obligation to provide more information to citizens, in layperson’s terms, on both the RGS and RCS – in a timely way, and in a meaningful format. Metro Vancouver and the City of Vancouver, respectively, have rejected requests by CityHallWatch.ca and MetroVanWatch.ca to provide staff to explain these documents in a public meeting with presentations, Q&A, and discussion.

To our knowledge, neither CoV nor Metro Vancouver held a single public meeting in Vancouver on actual text or content before Vancouver City Council ratified the RGS on March 13, 2011, nor did they hold a public meeting in Vancouver before the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors ratified the RGS Bylaw in July 2011. Citizens have been largely cut out of the process. The RCS has been a media blindspot. A web search on April 13, 2013 on Google News for “Regional Context Statement” turned up only two hits, neither related to Vancouver. A search on the City’s website, Vancouver.ca, turned up only eight hits, all of them with only tangential reference to the RCS. Now some Councillors are claiming that there is public misunderstanding about the RCS.

People should ask if City Hall is being fair in its release of information. The public may wish to ask our elected officials if City Hall has been equitable in consultation. Has any person or organization outside of City Hall been able to review the text of the Regional Context Statement or provide preferential input before it is released publicly on April 18? Or is the public getting short-changed and insiders getting privileged access to the process?  Are all elected officials at City Hall receiving the RCS text, in whole or in part, at the same time? Or are some taking special privileges? Media reporters and citizens may wish to ask their elected officials about this. A future Freedom of Information Inquiry may be revealing. The public should be watching with interest to see how City Hall has handled these matters. What no one would like to discover is that preferences and unfairness are being exercised in access to information and influence in formulation of this important policy.

Metro Vancouver and municipal governments of the region, including the City of Vancouver, claim that the public was adequately consulted on the Regional Growth Strategy. We strongly disagree. There may have been open houses early in the process about generalities. But as the teeth and details were put into the RGS bylaw at the final phase, work was done behind closed doors among planners, with the involvement of select politicians. We know as a fact that some councillors not directly involved in the process did not receive adequate reporting or a chance to oversee what was going on. Media coverage and analysis was zero. And when the RGS went to a public hearing in only four locations, see below how it was advertised in local papers — who would guess from the obscure jargon how important that public hearing was. Vancouver citizens did not even have a chance to attend a meeting in their own city. Turnout at the four venues was very sparse. The public comments were generally ignored.

RGS public hearing notice Nov-2010

Video of COPE then-Councillor David Cadman on the problems of the Regional Growth Strategy – relinquishing local control. http://metrovanwatch.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/five-minute-summary-of-whats-wrong-with-the-rgs/

Is There Really a Hard Deadline for Regional Context Statements
Can a municipality defer submission of an RCS past the July 29, 2013 deadline. Are there any penalties or consequences for deferring? And what legislation governs this? A senior planner at Metro Vancouver provided this answer:

Section 866 of British Columbia’s Local Government Act sets out the requirements for regional context statements in municipal official community plans. Section 8 sets out the deadline for submissions of Regional Context Statements (2 years after the adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy). There is no mention in Section 866 of deferring the submission of a Regional Context Statement, nor is there any mention of penalties or consequences. Specific to the City of Vancouver, section 562 of the Vancouver Charter requires that the City refer the Regional Context Statement to the Metro Vancouver Board for comment before adopting the regional context statement bylaw.

Statements by the chief planner for the District of West Vancouver to the Upper Lands Study Review Working Group Meeting (download PDF meeting minutes) support the view that there are no sanctions from Metro Vancouver for partial or late submission of the RCS. Selected excerpts:

  • B. Sokol, Director of Planning, Land Development and Permits, provided further information on the Special Study Area, covering requirements for amendments, removal, and processes. 
  • Under Provincial Legislation, a municipality has two years after the adoption of a RGS to submit a Regional Context Statement (RCS). There are no sanctions against municipalities that do not meet this timeline….
  • The two-year timeframe for RCS submissions ends July 28, 2013. At that time the District can either submit an RCS, a partial RCS, or defer its submission… 

Metro Vancouver official web page on Regional Growth Strategy
http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/Pages/default.aspx
Actual text of Regional Growth Strategy adopted by Board of Directors
http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/RGSDocs/RGSAdoptedbyGVRDBoardJuly292011.pdf
IMPORTANT: Look especially for keyword “context” (as in Regional Context Statement) and the issue of Transfer of land use authority.

Detailed independent analysis Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy remains unsupported (Elizabeth Murphy, The Straight, February 2011)
http://www.straight.com/news/metro-vancouvers-regional-growth-strategy-remains-unsupported

Metro Vancouver official web page on Regional Context Statements
http://public.metrovancouver.org/planning/development/strategy/Pages/RegionalContextStatements.aspx
Excerpt: Regional Context Statements are the policy tools which link municipal Official Community Plans (OCPs) to the Regional Growth Strategy. After the adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy (July 29, 2011), municipalities have a two year period in which to prepare a Regional Context Statement. The Regional Context Statement is then submitted to the Metro Vancouver Board for consideration. The Regional Context Statements identify how the Official Community Plan works toward achieving the goals and strategies set out in the Regional Growth Strategy. Listed below are the current Regional Context Statements for the Livable Region Strategic Plan as well as links to the Official Community Plans of the municipalities.
[CityHallWatch note: Go to the link indicated for each municipality’s RCS. Note, interestingly, that currently (April 2013) the City of Vancouver’s Regional Context Statement is from 1999 (download PDF), and Vancouver’s “Official Community Plan” goes to a link on the City of Vancouver website for CityPlan. See below about CityPlan.]

CityPlan – Huge public support. Political promises. Betrayal. 
This was the most popular public consultation and urban planning initiative ever implemented in Vancouver. It involve millions of dollars and huge participation by citizens across the city. Vancouver’s current international renown for urban planning comes largely from CityPlan. The outcome was strongly supported by the public, which liked the idea of “a city of neighbourhoods.” City Council adopted CityPlan in 1995 as a city-wide plan  providing a framework for deciding City programs, priorities, and actions over the next 20 years (i.e., to 2015). But successive regimes at City Hall have abandoned CityPlan, cut budgets for Community Liaison Groups and Implementation Committees, and moved away from CityPlan. Vision Vancouver  swept into power in 2008 in a public backlash against the NPA’s “ecodensity” (massive increases in density = construction, “greenwashed” as being eco-friendly). Vision gained public support to win the 2008 election by promising to implement CityPlan, and reject “ecodensity,” but immediately after being elected, turned 180 degrees. All its urban policies since 2008 have been accelerating the implementation of the NPA’s original ecodensity policy, rebranded as parts of the “Greenest City” initiative. For an analysis of this history by Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, see: Planning Vancouver’s Future: CityPlan or City-wide Plan

Updates on Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Context Statements
Metro Vancouver’s “Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee” receives periodic updates on the status of these documents.

http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/Pages/BoardsCommittees.aspx

The meeting on April 5, 2013 carries some updates.
http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/Regional%20Planning%20and%20Agriculture/Regional_Planning_and_Agriculture_Committee-April_5_2013-Agenda.pdf

http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/Regional%20Planning%20and%20Agriculture/Regional_Planning_and_Agriculture_Committee-April_5_2013-On_table_Replacement_items.pdf

http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/Regional%20Planning%20and%20Agriculture/Regional_Planning_and_Agriculture_Committee-April_5_2013-Presentations.pdf

FROM PRESENTATIONS FILE

Guidelines for Identifying Frequent Transit Development Areas

FROM ON TABLE REPLACEMENT ITEMS FILE

Regional Growth Strategy
Implementation Guideline #4
Identifying Frequent Transit Development Areas
Guideline adopted by the Metro Vancouver Board ______________,2013
Regional Context Statement Update
By July 29, 2013, twenty-three affected local governments must submit a Regional Context Statement to the Metro Vancouver Board for consideration of acceptance. The Regional Context Statement is the document that outlines the relationship between a municipality’s Official Community Plan and the Regional Growth Strategy. Each month, staff will provide an update on the status of this work.

Village of Belcarra ACCEPTED – July 29, 2011
City of Coquitlam Draft Received; staff-to-staff feedback underway
Corporation of Delta Draft Received; staff-to-staff feedback underway
City of Langley Draft Received; staff-to-staff feedback underway
District of Maple Ridge Draft Received; staff-to-staff feedback underway
City of Port Coquitlam Council Approved Draft Received; Metro Vancouver staff
comments provided.
City of Richmond ACCEPTED – November 16, 2012
City of Vancouver Draft Received; staff-to-staff feedback underway

University of British Columbia Regional Context Statement

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The City of Vancouver “Greenest City Action Plan” refers to IAP2, the International Association of Public Participation — particular its “spectrum of consultation.” Interesting to note also is the IAP2 Code of Ethics and Core Values. How is the City of Vancouver doing along those lines?

PURPOSE. We support public participation as a process to make better decisions that incorporate the interests and concerns of all affected stakeholders and meet the needs of the decision-making body.
ROLE OF PRACTITIONER. We will enhance the public’s participation in the decision-making process and assist decision-makers in being responsive to the public’s concerns and suggestions.
TRUST. We will undertake and encourage actions that build trust and credibility for the process among all the participants.
DEFINING THE PUBLIC’S ROLE. We will carefully consider and accurately portray the public’s role in the decision-making process.
OPENNESS. We will encourage the disclosure of all information relevant to the public’s understanding and evaluation of a decision.
ACCESS TO THE PROCESS. We will ensure that stakeholders have fair and equal access to the public participation process and the opportunity to influence decisions.
RESPECT FOR COMMUNITIES. We will avoid strategies that risk polarizing community interests or that appear to “divide and conquer.”
ADVOCACY. We will advocate for the public participation process and will not advocate for interest, party, or project outcome.
COMMITMENTS. We ensure that all commitments made to the public, including those by the decision-maker, are made in good faith.

The Core Values define the expectations and aspirations of the public participation process.

1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
2. Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.
3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

3 thoughts on “Regional Context Statement

  1. Pingback: Vancouver’s 30-year urban development plan – Important Open House May 16, Public Hearing June 11 | CityHallWatch: Tools for engagement in Vancouver city decisions, creating our future.

  2. Pingback: Virtual silence continues – Vancouver’s Official Development Plan, Regional Context Statement | CityHallWatch: Tools for engagement in Vancouver city decisions, creating our future.

  3. Pingback: Grandview neighbourhood plans – important open houses June 1, 4, 6 | CityHallWatch: Tools for engagement in Vancouver city decisions, creating our future.

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