‘Oh, it was the usual 4-3 vote’ is a refrain you will hear a lot in the City of North Vancouver where that permutation has become a short-hand for a predictable split vote on development in the city.
Said with a mourner’s lament, it usually means Mayor Darrell Mussatto, and Councillors Linda Buchannan, Craig Keating, and Holly Back voted together and that is usually taken to mean there must be a development proposal on the table.
A recent decision in the council chamber, however, poses a challenge to that common perception. Posing that challenge was Councillor Holly Back, who left many citizens pleasantly surprised as she voted to reject a proposal for three infill buildings on Keith Street.
The building would have added 40 rental units, but the development wouldn’t go through with councillors approving setbacks that would have infringed on Victoria Park, green space coveted by many local residents. Holly Back’s vote seems to have taken the public by a pleasant surprise. North Vancouver City Voices, a popular political blog, called it a ‘little miracle on Monday night’.
Even cartoonist Bruce Sinski put away his acerbic brush to thank Holly Back for listening to people. Back says she always does that, and rejected the perception that she votes as part of an undeclared political slate. It is a view she reiterated in the council chambers while she voted against the proposed towers on Keith Street. She said she has heard chatter that councillors don’t listen to the community and come to the council chambers with their minds made up. That is not the case, she asserted.
“I have heard it a few times and I take exception to it. I’d like to make it clear that these decisions are very difficult and we do hear both sides. I have heard the neighbours, and they are not happy. I look at the park and the setbacks, and it’s not a good idea to build on the park,” she said as she cast the opposing vote.
Her vote seemed to have shaken Mayor Mussatto and Keating who said the project would help the city’s enfeebled rental market and get more people an opportunity to live in the city. But when the final vote was cast, Back stood her ground and voted to reject the proposal. In an interview with the Global Canadian, Back said she listens to people for that is her job.
“I don’t vote for other people because I am very, very independent woman, and I always have been. I will vote with what I feel is right for the city. I also listen to the input from the community, and if my vote happens to be with this three or the other three, it’s my independent vote every time,” she said.
By way of example, she said she was supportive of the Harry Jerome Centre, which is opposed by Mayor Darrell Mussatto, and Councillors Craig Keating, and Linda Buchahan. “I love this city and I’d like it to be a very vibrant and an amazing place to live,” she said.