By Gagandeep Ghuman
Along with her community, Kelly Bond turned every stone she could to ensure that the public and particularly the District of North Vancouver councillors would know new redevelopment application for condos for Emery Village place in Lynn Valley will displace long-standing families.
It almost became for her a full-time job as she ran from pillar to post along with other residents to ensure the decisions makers would know their plight and how they would face displacement from North Shore if the redevelopment application went ahead.
The residents, Bond said, created a website, formed a mail list, published newsletters, held residents meetings, created an online petition, wrote letters to the editors, dispersed information flyers to the surrounding Lynn Valley neighbourhood, met with the Chair of CHAC, Don Peters, to ask for his assistance in retaining or finding affordable housing for Emery Residents, invited and spoke with media in advance of First, Second/Third readings, and the public hearings.
They conducted a survey regarding temporary modular housing and qualifying for the below market rentals, and even designed and created lapel buttons to oppose the rezoning. And of course, they expressed their concerns about loss of affordable purpose built rentals to the Mayor and the council as well as any politicians who would listen to them. Emery Village residents also appeared in full force before the council to make their opposition clear. The written public input was over 1,000 pages.
The public hearing saw just shy of 12 hours of presentations with over three nights with 123 speeches heard, of which Bond says 92 were against the proposal while and 31 were in favour. Bond says she remembers Mayor Richard Walton say he had not seen a rezoning application garner so much attention in 15 years. And yet, all the citizens efforts came to a crush end as four councillors still voted for the redevelopment proposal.
All the petitions and appeals and pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
“The ‘public engagement process’ was no more than a facade meant to placate the public into thinking everyday citizens had a voice. In reality, several current district council members remain hell-bent on distorting the municipality into a beautiful playground for the elite and wealthy, as revealed by a 3.5 year consistent voting record,” Bond said.
That is perhaps why after so many pleas, media coverage, and unprecedented public advocacy on the issue, the majority of the council simply decided to ignore the residents. Bruce Crowe organised the petition process to oppose the development and got 900 people to sign a petition asking council to postpone the development plans for Emery Place.
While that didn’t make a difference and what is more, the district staff, he says, refused to have any mention of the petition in the minutes.
“I don’t understand why the petition was not mentioned in the minutes but I believe this was unfair, unethical and undemocratic,” he said.
Lin Guenther has lived at Emery village for five years and it was infuriating to listen to the ‘double speak’ of the councillors as they explained their reasons for giving the go-ahead for the project.