This evening I had a really nice conversation with a young couple who favour the removal of our community Land Use Contracts.  The young man wants to build a larger home and raise his family here.

 

Over this past few weeks there have been others who also share the view that removing LUCs will be a positive by-law amendment.

 

Thankfully we live in a democracy where we are free to have differing views, and still be friends.

 

Wednesday morning six of us from the neighbourhood met with Darren Braun and Nick Crosman and Tanya.  They gave us a generous two hours and people were able to ask questions, and get answers.

 

The group had a variety of thoughts as to what they want to see happen here, once LUCs are no longer covering us.

 

My view is that the City does not need to rush at us, as they are doing now.   It is August, 2016, what is the sudden urgency driving Council?

 

In May of 2014 the Province of BC,  decreed that, with Bill 17, they will sunset all Land Use Contracts by 2024.  

 

Right now any LUC trumps city by-laws.  The goal at Abbotsford city hall is to finish the LUC initiatives by 2022.  Okay, that is reasonable.

 

Staff explained they comply with the Local Government Act – Section 94, in how they go about making by-law revisions.

 

It is here that I strenuously object to the process by which developers are given plenty of time to advance their proposals,……but the surrounding property owners are given virtually no consideration, no heads-up, no consultation.

 

I checked this out again with Nick today (Friday), and he gave me some pages from their guide-lines. The rules, as they stand today, stipulate that Council can do a 1st and 2nd Reading of a proposed by-law change, in one meeting,  and that in essence authorizes a Public Hearing on the proposal, which can be set then for the following regular meeting of Council, (so two weeks away).

 

Then a notice must be sent at least 10 days before the Hearing, to properties within the surrounding 100 meters.  And 3 consecutive notices in the local paper, again 10 days in advance of the Hearing.

 

Okay.  So the developer has been at work behind the scenes for months, with city staff.  But the locals in the area that will be directly affected, might have no inkling about any of these plans.

 

Council agenda gets posted the Friday afternoon, before a Monday meeting.  So if you happen to have nothing better to do than keep your eyes on council activity, and if the agenda is up on the City website, and if the item stands out as something that directly affects your life,….well then you might be able to get out to the Monday night Council meeting.

 

So then you will be one of the rare citizens who hears Council do their 1st and 2nd Reading on a matter of great importance to you, and possibly also to your neighbours. With staff recommendation the proposal moves to a Public Hearing set for next Council meeting two weeks hence.   You will be one of the favoured few who can then scramble to figure out how to get more information. Is this good or a bad proposal? Should you get the news to others in the area?

 

Of course some will be notified.  Staff will begin to mail cards out, and the newspaper will also announce the Public Hearing.

 

So 10 days, minus time for the mail to arrive.  People within 100 metres, get a card sent to them. Likely 7 days left, before a Public Hearing, about a by-law revision the recipient had news of for the first time.

 

For most of us, our home is our single most important financial investment.   We deliberate, investigate and generally sacrifice to buy a home.  We know about the zoning of the area, check out schools, parks and amenities.  We hope for nice neighbours.  Our homes are a refuge for us and our families.  

 

But the government says, in effect, ‘Hey let’s facilitate developers.  What’s the problem? We’re giving home-owners seven whole days to act,…..in the event they don’t like this proposed change.

 

Oh,…some people went off on summer vacation?  Sad.  Oh well, they’ll eventually adjust to the new reality.  Given enough time everyone will grow to love the new scrap-food digester next door.’

 

Sure, that’s silly.  In our situation we are only looking at mobile homes being replaced by larger houses with secondary suites. But there will be real changes in the neighbourhood as speculator landlords move in to make money on the affordable housing they’ve been snapping up.

 

Those changes will be positive for some owners and not for others. But sliding through significant changes, essentially behind the backs of people who care a lot about what happens in their community, is not right, or good, or fair, or decent.

 

Canada is a democracy.  All government employees, whether elected officials or hired staff, are ‘public servants’.  Servants serve.  They take their instructions from the master.  They do everything for the betterment of their employers.

 

Who would not fire their servant at once if upon coming home from a vacation -found to their horror that the foolish employee had given away the family dog while they were gone. The dog barked too much and dug up the garden.  Oh, and to help master’s finances, the helpful servant thought they’d sell off the silverware.

 

Such a foolish servant would be fired, yes?  How is it that we have come to the place where our public servants can pull the rug out from under our lives, with a maximum 10 day notice, and consider that to be acceptable and normal?

 

So, whether it seems good or bad to remove our 44-year old LUC, this is being done years before the Provincial mandate is up.  It’s wrong, and lacks respect for the people who pay for government services for Mayor and Council  to try make momentous changes,….. without first providing the public with information and reasonable time to process data that impacts their lives.

 

Going away for a few weeks shouldn’t be scary, because you wonder what momentous decisions your servant will make while your back is turned.

Some neighbours came home after July 25th. If our agenda item had not been pulled, due to a procedural error these people would have come home to a new reality.  

 

At our small meeting last Wednesday one of the folk asked whether the by-law could have been reversed, since staff was in error for allowing this item to move to a Public Hearing without first having a re-zoning sign posted on the subject property, for three weeks. The answer was, “No”.  But he added, we would then have the option of making a legal challenge, if Council voted had voted in favour of the proponent on July 25th.  And that’s the good news.

 

I’m doing a ten-minute delegation on August 29th to challenge the flawed process being used by City Hall to change important by-laws.  Because this originates from the Provincial government, I’m writing them this week, essentially saying the above.  The Province is not immune to input from the municipalities, and this is incredibly bad policy.

 

The honest, hard-working tax-payers of BC should be given first consideration, respected enough to have information provided, and time enough to process that information, before developers are granted licence to alter neighbourhoods.

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