From: Gerda Peachey <gerdapeachey@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 3:13 AM
Subject: Land Use Contracts
To: premier <premier@gov.bc.ca>, “deJong.MLA, Mike” <Mike.deJong.MLA@leg.bc.ca>, Darryl <Darryl.Plecas.MLA@leg.bc.ca>, simon.gibson.mla@leg.bc.ca, Rich Coleman <rich.coleman.mla@leg.bc.ca>

Dear Premier Clark, and MLAs De Jong, Plecas, Gibson and Coleman:

A week from today I’m going to the Abbotsford City Council meeting to challenge the way our city conducts Public Hearings.

City staff say they are following Provincial guidelines, so before I speak to them next Monday about their seriously flawed process, I want to point out to you this problem, and to ask you to amend the guidelines you currently have in place for municipal governments.

Apparently there are many Land Use Contracts in BC, and the goal you have is to provide more manageable, more uniform zoning to replace what is currently somewhat of a hodge-podge of LUC’s that all have unique special features.

So you decided that by 2024 all LUC’s had to be replaced by suitable zoning under municipal oversight.

Fine.  That kind of makes sense, and 2024 is eight years down the road, which gives everyone time to learn what will change about their land, and to make plans for the future.

These land use changes are of great interest to elected politicians.  Beyond the duty to serve their public, and to make wise and careful decisions for the good of the citizenry, some of the people highly placed in your government are among the landlords who scoop up affordable housing, and add multiple properties to their personal holdings.

To his credit, Finance Minister, Mike de Jong listed his assets, not hiding behind numbered companies, so it is part of the public record that he owned property in my community, that is the focus of this letter.

Other folk in the government also listed multiple properties as part of their financial holdings.

According to the media, a few years back, Ujjal Dosanjh owned rental property deemed to be slum housing. That happens regularly with rental homes.  Even the poor take pride in their humble dwellings, if they own the place, but landlords can have a very different focus.

Affordable homes bought by speculators are often allowed to degrade to slum status.  Landlords don’t particularly care if a nice house becomes a grow-op, prostitution place or flop-housing for welfare addicts, just as long as the rent money keeps flowing in. The landlord doesn’t live there and is waiting for an opportune time to get local government to rezone, so landlords rarely lose.  But the blight of slum-housing spreads so that people give up and sell.  All good for speculators waiting in the wings.

Our re-zoning proposal looks different, but can create a similar domino effect.  These lovely humble properties will likely be gobbled up and replaced by large houses that max out the footprint. And legal suites, along with lots of illegal ones to help pay off the large houses.  That is what we see happening all through our city.

I make these points because the matter of how the municipality goes about implementing your mandate to remove all LUCs by 2024 has come quite swiftly and in a very shoddy manner to my community, not in 2024, or 2022 but now, in 2016,……eight years before your date.

We have been covered by this LUC since the inception of our unique place of some 150 properties, all mobile homes, on their own land, since about 1972.

People living on Oakridge Crescent, Monarch Court, Crystal Court and Lombard Street bought here knowing that restriction.  There is no expiry date on our LUC’s.

This has been a haven, enabling people to buy a home, average working couples who had to borrow and live comparatively frugal lives in order to make ends meet.  Most people I’ve talked to these last few weeks are deeply concerned how this sudden by-law amendment will affect their ability to stay on here if the taxes rise to match future monster housing assessments.

Last March someone bought a property, on my street, and set about getting the LUC lifted, so she could pull out the mobile, put in a large house and suite,…..thus setting a precedent for the rest of our community.

City Hall had first and second reading of K. K. Gill’s application on July 11th and set July 25th as a Public Hearing.  A few of us got a card from City Hall and,…… but for one alert man,…. this applicant would probably be on her way to radically altering our entire community by now, with all the other speculators soon building their large houses, where once stood mobile homes.

What’s the problem?

Besides losing lovely affordable housing, to treeless properties with monster houses, BC Assessment would asses all these properties to match the assessed value of the large new houses. Taxes on all these currently affordable houses would rise. The families who barely make ends meet,……..won’t be able to any longer.

And they will sell to folk who buy up properties, not for a home, but to build more large houses, filled with renters.

Well so what? That’s business, and there’s nothing illegal about buying properties and making money on them.

There are serious flaws in how this is happening here.  You (the provincial government) set a time, in the future, but suddenly that future evaporated in the heat of July, 2016.  In the middle of summer vacation, a land-use speculator tries to alter 44 years of a protective LUC in 14 days, while many people are gone from home.

Council met on Monday, July 11th, sent out some cards on a Tuesday.  Some of those cards might have arrived on a Wednesday.  Mine arrived on the Thursday, and some of the recipients got their card late the following week.

Now Abbotsford council says that is all okay because they are following Provincial guidelines.  So as long as they drop some cards in the mailbox at City Hall TEN DAYS before a Public Hearing, that’s fine, according to you.

That’s TEN DAYS.  I checked at City Hall today.  It is not even TEN BUSINESS DAYS,…..just ten days.  Subtract the days needed for the mail to be in transit.  I sent some letters to friends last week, just to see how many days it takes from the desk at the main post-office to destination.  Some arrived in one day, another in two, and one has still not reached it’s destination.

So you at our BC Provincial Government think that we the working public should be content with being informed about a meeting that might have tremendous import, about our homes, which for most of us is the biggest expense we have. We should be satisfied with a notice that might give us as little as 10-9-8-7-6-5…….maybe even 0 days to know about a Public Hearing that might have profound impact on our lives.

You, government employees and elected officials likely get at least three weeks vacation.  Would you be okay with coming home and finding that the zoning on your neighbourhood got changed, while you were on holiday?  Would you be okay with coming home to a radically altered zoning for your home and neighbourhood?

Did you, like us, buy in good faith, liking what you knew about the place,….trusting your local government zoning would not change without your knowledge and input?

I have done a number of Freedom of Information requests over the past few decades

Are you aware that the city has THIRTY BUSINESS DAYS to provide an answer to an FOI? Thirty business days translates into FORTY days to provide (an often blacked-out, redacted) response. And, the city can, and does, extend that time period for various reasons.

In fact I have an FOI waiting for you, the Provincial Government, to answer an FOI for over half a year now.

I asked for a copy of your contract with the Merck pharmaceutical company that is injecting Gardasil into little public school children.  That has been happening for some time and is costing the public millions.  Dubious claims about protecting little children from future sexually-transmitted diseases.  Unknown what harm these chemicals might do to kids who are NOT sick now, but are merrily being given 3 injections of Gardasil. All chemicals can cause other reactions, not necessarily immediately.  Will Gardasil be a factor in the phenomenal rise of auto-immune diseases? So I want to know how much we the public are paying Merck, and what guarantees are in place.

I’ve asked crystal clear questions but months go by and still the government of BC  provides no answers.   MONTHS, to not answer questions about where and why public money is being spent. But you think that we, regular working folk,  do not merit the same leisurely time that you grant yourselves.

Ordinary people can be happy they’ve been given a few days warning before the rug beneath their home is yanked away.  For most of us, our homes are the largest investment of our lives.

Abbotsford council may be technically correct to say they are simply following your guidelines, but your guidances are deeply flawed.

Being high up in government apparently allows you to be among the speculators who can afford to scoop up affordable housing, but it is also you who make the rules that seriously disadvantage the populace you promised to serve.

It is completely meaningless for city council to have first, second, and even sometimes third reading, all done in one breath.  Why bother pretending there is a real second reading.  There isn’t even one minute between those words, let alone weeks during which the public has a chance to digest a re-zoning proposal.

Developers are engaged with staff for months.  The public may have no knowledge of a proponents plans that can have a direct impact on the value of their land, or the quality of their life.  An application that seeks to alter existing by-laws must be done in the context of time,  enough time to inform and consult with a community.  Don’t betray the people who need you, the government to protect their property rights.

When an application goes before council let there be a real first reading, followed by an actual second reading at the following council meeting, so that the affected public has time to inform themselves and engage themselves in important issues.

Mandate a longer period for a re-zoning sign to be posted, like at least one month.  Expand the size of the zone to be notified.

That would slow development applications down by some weeks, but who should be your primary concern, ordinary working, tax-paying citizens or wealthy speculators?  Trusting citizens should not be kept in the dark until it’s too late for meaningful action on their part.

So much talk about affordable housing and so much bad policy. Legislative decisions that ensure the loss of affordable housing while more wealth accumulates to people who clearly have enough.

A couple in my neighbourhood came back from a short vacation, on July 26th. The omission of a re-zoning sign caused staff to pull this item off the agenda the morning of the hearing, otherwise council likely would have approved the re-zoning application. These people were shocked such a thing could be done in the few days they’d been gone from home.

Ten days, or less, to inform affected property owners about a potential by-law amendment is not enough time.  It is an injustice that you, who created this mess would not tolerate for yourselves.   You show contempt and disrespect for the land-owners in BC when you say they must wait 30 business days to get information about where their tax dollars are being spent, while expecting them to be satisfied with a 10 day heads-up about potential changes to their zoning.

I ask that you make swift changes and inform all municipalities that Public Hearings can’t be held without advance information and adequate time given to affected parties. Ten days and postcards mailed to properties within a 100 meter radius is woefully inadequate.

Gerda Peachey,

Abbotsford

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