NOTE:  I refer to Sept. 26th here, as that was the next scheduled meeting, and it was the date first given to me, but that was the UBCM, annual mayors meeting, so this should have read Oct. 3/16.

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———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Gerda Peachey <gerdapeachey@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 5:04 AM
Subject: Termination of Land Use Contracts in BC, and possible conflict of interest concerning our Minister of Finance.
To: peter.fassbender.mla@leg.bc.ca, “deJong.MLA, Mike” <Mike.deJong.MLA@leg.bc.ca>, Darryl <Darryl.Plecas.MLA@leg.bc.ca>, premier <premier@gov.bc.ca>, Henry Braun <hbraun@abbotsford.ca>

Hello Mr. Fassbender:

Re:  CONFLICT OF INTEREST question on termination of Land Use Contract in Abbotsford:

I believe you are the Minister in charge of Municipal Affairs. There is some urgency to this request for your help, and I’m not entirely certain who, in the Provincial Government ultimately will step in for us, so will send this to the Ombudsman’s Office, as well as to the Premier, and Minister of Finance, Mike de Jong, as well as my neighbours.

There is a possible conflict of interest in the proposed discharge of a Land Use Contract before our Council, and it has ramifications far beyond the one proposal now being considered in our city.  BC has some 2,400 LUCs to be discharged within some 92 local government jurisdictions.  Given the involvement of elected officials in land speculation, Bill 17 has the potential for insider manipulation of much valuable real estate.

I’m asking you to stop the deliberations currently under way in Abbotsford,  before Council returns to render a decision on Sept. 26/16 because the process up to and including Monday’s Hearing has been rife with error and disregard for the public good.

Last week I asked my MLA, Darryl Plecas to forward my request, to the minister overseeing municipalities, so maybe that has found it’s way to you by now.

The whole business of discharging Land Use Contracts has potential for enormous wealth generation for land-use speculators, and in this case directly involves the Minister of Finance, Mike de Jong.

In May of 2014 the question of bringing all of the LUCs in BC to an end by 2024 was introduced in the Legislature under the innocuous title of ‘MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT 2014.

Both you and MLA de Jong were present there:   https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/40th-parliament/2nd-session/20140428pm-Hansard-v11n2#3184

This Bill can be seen as a good thing, or a very bad thing, and that view may vary radically depending on how property owners are affected, or how land-use speculators may profit from the Bill.  But for certain, this is not a matter that should have been slipped in with so little consultation with British Columbians, thrown in ‘miscellaneous‘, as if it were some minor house-keeping item.

Many elected officials engage in the lucrative real estate market, MLA de Jong being one of them, and there is nothing illegal in that.  But when you in government write the legislation, and you also engage in the market directly impacted by your legislation, there must be a very high degree of transparency and integrity in all your business transactions.

Some years ago Mike wanted to buy the home next door to ours, but that neighbour decided to stay awhile longer.  Mike was, and perhaps still is part owner in at least one property here,……

 

 From ‘The Tyee’ regarding MLA de Jong: …… “He also holds a one-third interest in a $259,500 house on Oakridge Crescent, a half interest in an $86,500 condo on George Ferguson Way, and a one-third interest in two condos on Gladwin Road. The Gladwin Road addresses listed on de Jong’s disclosure statement do not appear in the BC Assessment database, nor could an assessment authority official reached by phone find them.”  http://thetyee.ca/News/2016/01/11/Finance-Minister-Well-Invested/

The applicant to remove the 44 year old LUC from the property he bought last March specifically references MLA de Jong.  Jagjit Gill makes a point of saying, his application is supported by the MLA, “Also Mike de Jong introduced this Bill in Victoria in 2014, and got it approved.”  I don’t know how accurate Mr Gill is here, because the proceedings (below) don’t indicate that direct action,  but Minister de Jong certainly was present, and added his “Aye” to Bill 17.

Bill 17 made the year 2024 the sunset for termination of all LUCs in the Province, with 2022 as the target for local governments to make wise changes on any of those within their jurisdiction.

VERY FEW PEOPLE had ever heard about Bill 17 at all. Out of the blue, with no consultation, no heads-up, no warning, my community was given a few days notice about an impending Public Hearing, set for July 25th. K. K. Gill applied for the discharge of her LUC, and wants to replace the existing mobile with a large house and suite, necessitating a by-law amendment.   We know there are landlord speculators waiting, who will follow with applications to also build large houses in this unique community set up in the early 1970’s, for only mobile/modular homes.

City Hall says this is consistent with their revised OCP, and with their Affordable Housing Strategy 2011. This is patently absurd.  Large new houses with suites are not built with altruism in mind. I’ve known plenty of people living in both legal and illegal suites. Landlords get as much as the market will bear.  Driving out low income owners with higher taxation and dubious new zoning will effectively REMOVE EXISTING AFFORDABLE HOUSING, from current property owners.  That contradicts the number one mandate to retain current affordable housing.

At an Official Community Plan open house, a man specifically asked Abbotsford City staff how their plans would affect our neighbourhood, and the answer was that, since we were under the Provincial LUC, we did not need to worry about the new OCP ‘vision’ for Abbotsford.

Yet strangely, and almost silently, that protective LUC is now in question, and the hearing came with no warning. Something we were told was eight or six years down the road, was sprung on us in the middle of summer vacation time, in 2016.  Days, not years!

Granting the first release in 44 years, will certainly be followed by people who’ve been snapping up this last bit of affordable housing, and renting out those properties, (knowing, as it turns out that the City was going to grant termination of LUCs piecemeal), and thereby fracturing this unique oasis where people still had a hope of owning a home.

This community should have been in consultation with City Hall for a year before any such exception was even considered.  City Planner Darren Braun says our community is up for study some time this fall.  But suddenly our Council seems bent on quickly approving individual developers. Before any careful consideration was done, the planning dept. painted us with an underlying RS3 zoning to come into effect once the LUC goes.  That presents some troubling questions for those who bought to live here.  Large houses will raise taxes on surrounding properties, and completely change the character of our unique neighbourhood. Deeply disturbing is the matter of RS3, which DOES NOT ALLOW FOR MOBILE/MODULAR HOMES in the event the original must be replaced.

I specifically asked the City to give me in writing what protection owners have, in the event of a fire, or other disaster, but no answer was given, and the Hearing came and went.  One woman was told we would be “grandfathered“, but nothing was given to her in writing.  A landlord, who only recently bought here demanded more ‘densification’.  For speculators this is an enormously profitable bit of Abbotsford just now, and they want to get their hands on it fast.

Mayor and Council deferred their decision till the 26th because the majority at the Hearing opposed the By-law amendment.  NOTABLY they did not refer the matter back to staff, something they normally would do. This should have gone back to staff in light of the many suggestions for City Hall to seriously study our community, before approving a precedent setting application that can drastically change our community.  That has to be undertaken with utmost care and study, not swiftly to please people who bought on speculation.

You, our elected officials brought in a Bill with enormous potential to alter our lives, and you did it with little fanfare.  Many of you are actively involved in the buying and selling of land.  I see very little in the way of protection for the public when you decree that TEN DAYS is sufficient to give time for local governments to give notice of a Public Hearing.

Abbotsford does not even think ten days is necessary.  Just drop some postcards in the mail and if they arrive 10, 8, 6, 3, 0 days before a Public Hearing,…….oh well.

Further, Mayor Braun does not think it important to follow the meagre steps mandated within the notice requirements on Abbotsford books.   Two properties were on the Agenda Monday Sept. 12th for removal of LUCs.  Neither of these two complied with the sign rules, stipulating that upon the granting of a Public Hearing, the large re-zoning sign had to have stickers added notifying the neighbourhood of the impending Hearing, the LOCATION, DATE AND TIME of that Public Hearing.

On my way to City Hall, Monday evening,  I took photographs of both those signs.  Two men were on Windsor St., so I asked them if they were going to their Hearing, (in the next half hour).  The one fellow lived right near the subject property, which was applying to have a legal suite, already having an illegal suite, that the neighbourhood had reported.  The fellow said to me, “What Hearing?”   We were standing a few yards across from the sign.  Nothing on that sign told neighbours about a Hearing, happening that night.

Yet when questioned about those missing stickers by a man, at the end of our Public Hearing,…..Mayor Braun replied with a dismissive, “I think the fact that everybody is here tonight tells me that the neighbourhood is well aware of what is happening there.”

IN FACT,……NO ONE from the Windsor area spoke, probably because they were not aware of what was happening at City Hall that night, and were not there.

As to our issue of Oakridge proposal, it was no thanks at all to City Hall that we even had a chance to hear about this, or gather our wits about us. The first hearing was cancelled when we realized it was illegal.  What followed for the 2nd run was not a thoughtful revamping of the proposal, given the public concern.  The Planning department and Council merely re-set  the Hearing date, with no alterations based on the outcry from our neighbourhood.  We just did not count,……only the developer seemed to matter.

So what we have seen is a Council that says, if a Public Hearing requires steps A, B, C, and D to be followed, (so the public can be informed and engaged in matters important to their interests,)……why if we just do steps A and D, and maybe part of B,…………..good enough!     http://civic.neulion.com/cityofabbotsford/

Many British Columbians will feel the impact of Bill 17, whether for good or bad.  The implementation of these terminations must be of a sterling, transparent nature.  The situation here in Abbotsford has been sloppy with no consultation in advance, and an apparent disdain for the majority. We oppose granting piecemeal exemptions to people who bought on speculation of getting the LUCs removed.

Several women went to the community and got a lot of signatures on petitions. Not everyone can come to a Hearing, and others can’t  bear the thought of public speaking.  Still 22 people did speak to oppose this, despite that being so hard for them to do.

The situation here has more than a hint that rapid approval of this LUC termination is the goal of Council.  That may enrich wealthy speculators, while causing a burden on the majority of property owners.  Therefore, the possible influence of Mike de Jong, a powerful minister of the Provincial government must be taken seriously. The dismissive, cavalier attitude exhibited by Mayor Braun at the Sept. 12th Hearing inspires little confidence in the process being genuine, or just.

 

From Stewart McDannold Stuart – Barristers & Solicitors

 

  • Section 914(1) is amended to state to that compensation is not payable for any loss or damages that result from the termination of a land use contract, whether by operation of section 914.1, or as a result of a bylaw adopted under section 914.2.
  • Section 930, the current provision dealing with the modification, variance or discharge of land use contracts, remains in place for the time being.

In terms of the obligation to ensure that zoning will be in place upon the termination of a land use contract, local governments should consider whether existing developments should be allowed to continue as lawful uses under the terms of the zoning bylaw, once the land use contract terminates, or whether upon the termination of the land use contract, it is more desirable from a planning perspective for the existing use to become lawfully non-conforming.

Mr. Fassbender, what does this mean,….. Section 914(1) is amended to state to that compensation is not payable for any loss or damages that result from the termination of a land use contract, whether by operation of section 914.1, or as a result of a bylaw adopted under section 914.2. …….And should such complex, and possibly harmful effects of Bill 17 not be made a part of serious communication and consultation with everyone affected by the termination of land use contracts that people bought in good faith, and trust in the governing authorities?  Maybe its not anything ominous at all, but I sure don’t know.

 

From the BC Legislature, May of 2014 

The Chair: Take a short recess, and prepare for section 27.

The committee recessed from 3:50 p.m. to 3:52 p.m.

[D. Horne in the chair.]

On section 27.

[ Page 3174 ]

 

On section 30.

S. Robinson: Section 30 speaks to removing the ability for the minister to establish policy around official community plans. Once again, I’d like to hear from the minister about what initiated this policy.

Hon. C. Oakes: This is just a consequential amendment, as the new policy guidelines are now in under a new section, 873.2, of this proposed bill.

Section 30 approved.

On section 31.

S. Robinson: Then I’ll ask the question here, because I was guessing that it was consequential but thought I would ask at the first opportunity. I’m curious again, or still, about the minister removing the authority around policy guidelines. Was there a specific issue that arose that resulted in this change?

[1555] Jump to this time in the webcast

 

Hon. C. Oakes: It actually doesn’t eliminate the requirement for legislation. It’s just that it’s been moved into a different section number.

S. Robinson: I just want to make sure that I understand. There’s the addition of two sections here in section 31. It provides the minister with “authority to establish policy guidelines regarding process in respect of specified amendments, plans, permits and bylaws.” I’m assuming that there was some consultation, but I’d like to know from the minister if there were particular issues that were arising that resulted in this change.

Hon. C. Oakes: Consultation has happened with UBCM and local governments around this, again, as it pertains to the removal of the bylaw requirement previous, but it continues to establish the policy guidelines in this. It’s moved, but the requirement is still there. It’s just moved to a different section.

V. Huntington: What initiated these changes? Could you describe what the earlier situation was — as opposed to setting up policy guidelines regarding process; I thought the process was pretty well established — and what the changes are requiring policy guidelines for content and why that appears to be necessary?

If I could add: who initiated these changes — local government, UBCM or the ministry?

Hon. C. Oakes: Again, this has been with consultation — a request from the UBCM and the local governments to look at that to increase efficiencies.

One thing has been ongoing. There has been, over the past ten years, a pilot project with regional districts. That has really looked at how we can support local government, specifically regional districts, to reduce the number of bylaws affected for ministerial approval.

As a result of the pilot project, approximately half of the regional districts in the province have been exempted already from the approval requirement to date under the pilot project. It’s effectively reduced the requirement of approvals by 80 percent, from many hundreds of bylaws annually to less than 100 for several years, with no demonstrated impact on provincial interest and with a gain in the development of efficiencies for local government.

A pilot project has been in place for ten years. This is just looking at the rest of the folks that weren’t covered under that pilot project, to implement that.

[1600] Jump to this time in the webcast

 

Really, why we are getting out of this approval role is that the ministerial approval process occurs after the substantive work has already been developed by the bylaw — which has been done by the regional district after a public hearing has been held and near the end of the bylaw adoption process.

By setting up these policy guidelines, what in fact we are doing is starting those conversations much earlier with local governments, looking at where provincial interests come into play and ensuring that that process happens more at the front end than after the substantive work has been done through the bylaws.

V. Huntington: Could I ask the minister whether the bylaws in the regional district…? Will they or can they then apply to agricultural lands? Will you be developing policy guidelines for regional district bylaws as they apply to agricultural lands?

[ Page 3175 ]

 

Hon. C. Oakes: This will only be applying to official community plans, zoning bylaws, subdivision servicing bylaws, temporary use permit bylaws and land use contracts. The question that you have…. When it looks like ALR land, it would have to go through the Ministry of Agriculture. It wouldn’t come through this process.

Sections 31 and 32 approved.

On section 33.

S. Robinson: I know that this, in all likelihood, is a result of section 40, but I’m going to ask here anyway, because it’s the first time it comes up.

[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

 

Section 33 removes the requirement for the minister to approve regional district bylaws, which is consequential, of course, to section 40. I just want to confirm that this is what the minister had answered to the other member who’s been very curious about these changes.

Hon. C. Oakes: Yes. Again, it’s just that the amendments will help streamline the approval process.

Sections 33 to 40 inclusive approved.

On section 41.

V. Huntington: With regard to section 40, do I understand here that boards no longer have to bring the zoning bylaws or subdivision servicing bylaws to the minister for approval? Is the intent, then, to take the power to approve zoning bylaws out of the hands of the minister entirely but allow non-binding guidelines to be put in place instead? Is that the intent of this section?

Hon. C. Oakes: This section removes the requirement for minister’s approval of regional district zoning and subdivision servicing bylaws. However, it enacts policy guidelines that ensure that the provincial interests are still in place, so you still have to go through the Ministry of Environment or the various ministries as we outlined earlier in the process.

[1605] Jump to this time in the webcast

 

V. Huntington: Is there any individual within the ministry that will be monitoring the development and approval of these bylaws at the regional district level in order to ensure that they are going through the proper processes?

Is anybody left to monitor them? The inspector of municipalities? Any function at all?

Hon. C. Oakes: What we found in the pilot process — and it’s been very successful — is that staff that have been involved with monitoring that and involved with the process of implementing the bylaws will continue through our ministry to be engaged in that process. What it means, what we’re suggesting, is that that work…. What has happened in the pilots is that those conversations happened before they got into the final approval stages, so it’s earlier on in the process.

That is what has been happening in the pilot project over the last ten years. They found that having conversations with the ministry early on in the development of those bylaws has been far more successful than leaving it and having those guidelines in place to ensure that provincial interests are included in that, as opposed to waiting longer down the road when bylaws are actually getting implemented in those readings. This has been far more successful, as the pilot has demonstrated.

V. Huntington: Has the inspector of municipalities had any role to play at all in the development of regional district OCPs, bylaws, etc., and is there any continued role for the inspector if he has had a role previously?

Hon. C. Oakes: The staff in the planning branch will continue to engage on this, but the director of municipalities did not have a role around regional districts in this process and will not in the future. But on the planning, the ministry has planning staff that will continue to engage and support the work around bylaws.

V. Huntington: Just for my own edification, did we rush through the adoption of section 42, or may I still ask questions?

The Chair: It’s available.

V. Huntington: Thank you very much.

Does the termination of land use contracts refer specifically to those contracts for regional districts, or is this strictly within the municipal sphere at this point?

The Chair: Let’s go back to…. Let me just confirm and make sure we are on the record properly.

Sections 40 and 41 approved.

On section 42.

S. Robinson: I had the pleasure of having to deal with a land use contract in my municipality, so it’s very interesting to see this come forward. I’m curious about how many land use contracts exist in the province and how many municipalities will be affected by these changes.

Hon. C. Oakes: There are approximately 2,400 land use contracts in the province and 92 local governments.

[ Page 3176 ]

 

[1610] Jump to this time in the webcast

 

S. Robinson: I didn’t hear the number of municipalities. If the minister could just repeat the number of municipalities, that would be great.

Hon. C. Oakes: Well, it’s not just municipalities, local governments, because this was set up in the 1970s. Local governments affected are 92.

S. Robinson: This is a huge change affecting a lot of contracts and a lot of local governments, and I’d like to hear what the minister’s plans are for contacting all of the local governments and making sure that they understand what the implications are of these changes and the ability to phase out these land use contracts.

Hon. C. Oakes: First, I should talk about where we have gotten there. In the consultation process with municipalities, we have been consulting those communities that have the highest number of land use contracts. For example, Surrey has 321 land use contracts. Richmond has 163. Whistler has nine. Prince George has 170. Kelowna has 82. Langley has 65.

There has been a working group on land use contracts. This has been ongoing work that we’ve done with UBCM and a lot of different other agencies that said that, you know, the 1970s…. What was put in place really isn’t effective use now on things that, when we’re looking at trying to have smart growth and we’re trying to do things with communities to encourage those kinds of principles, perhaps weren’t necessarily in place in the 1970s.

The next steps that we will be doing…. First of all, it’s a ten-year process that we have put in place so that there will be tools and support for local governments to help get them through these land use contracts. There is a process for local governments if they want to fast-track the termination of these land use contracts for those. For example, if you’re close to a SkyTrain terminal, you may want to look at your land use contracts so that it matches up with your official community plan.

There is a process with public hearings and mailing to the landowners, so there will be that process in place. We’ve made sure that we will be working with UBCM. We’ll be working with area associations and groups that will be affected with this to help support them and the administrators to make sure that that is in place.

The other thing that was really important…. There were a few communities that we looked at that are really small. One of the things that I said is that I didn’t want, necessarily, to put a really small community on challenge of having to go and do their OCP again, to make sure that we are preparing for that. So if there is a local government out there that is challenged by having to go through an OCP update when they move forward on the land use contracts, we have the support within our ministry to help those local governments. We tried to look at the long-term — kind of a holistic approach of where the land use contracts are and put in place a process to help support local governments on phasing those out.

V. Huntington: I’m curious. Has the ministry been approached by municipalities to engage in this type of ten-year termination process? I know my municipality has been terminating land use contracts by the dozens, and there’s certainly been no process that I’m aware of in terms of public hearing. What are the implications of these terminations, and is there any retroactivity back? What can the public expect to see handled differently as a result of the termination of them? I’ve just had some people indicate to me that they’re very concerned about the implications of this, and I just wondered what the minister could tell us in that regard.

[1615] Jump to this time in the webcast

 

Hon. C. Oakes: How we got here on the land use contracts…. There were several resolutions passed over the years by the Union of B.C. Municipalities for us to look at that. The question of why we’re looking at the termination of the land use contracts over ten years….

One of the things we felt was that we needed to provide adequate time for those folks that have those contracts to prepare to go through that process, as well as for communities to prepare to make those, to allow the application of modern land use regulation tools across communities in the region, provide greater certainty and transparency for neighbourhoods and remove the longstanding barrier that’s really prevented municipalities and regional districts from planning their communities effectively.

A lot of the things that we saw when we did the research…. You would have an official community plan. It was well planned out around transit areas. Then you’d have land use contracts, a few of them, and they, of course, don’t fit into the official community plan.

It’s great that some communities have decided to move forward on the land use contracts just so that they match the official community plan. There is no retroactive tool in order to say: “Well, this is the zoning process that you now have to follow.”

What we’re really looking at are those 2,400 land use contracts that are out there in the province…. This legislation — really, what it will do is to effectively move so that we’re modernizing our official community plans and making sure that, strategically, municipalities and local governments, regional districts, have the opportunity to really frame what their communities are going to look like.

Sections 42 to 48 inclusive approved.

The Chair: We already have passed 49 to 51.

[ Page 3177 ]

So Mr. Fassbender, I ask that you step in and stop the entire process currently under Council consideration for a vote.  Our staff and Council have sprung this LUC termination on us in an rush, riding roughshod over even their own minimal requirements.   This whole thing needs a fresh start.

Besides the question of whether MLA de Jong owned property here when Bill 17 was passed, there needs to be transparency as to who on our Council, or staff, owns property that will come up for termination under the LUC sunset clause of 2024.

Who in a position of authority stands to benefit from such changes in our community?

We need answers as to why this was sprung on us in 2016 with virtually no warning, no consultation.  We need clear answers as to what ‘grandfathering‘ means, given that the underlying zoning painted under the LUC, in the recent past, DOES NOT ALLOW MODULAR HOMES in the event of the loss of the existing home.  Therefore the City will effectively have ripped the property out of the hands of such an owner, since most people who bought here would not have enough money to build a ‘stick‘ house.  Insurance on a destroyed mobile would be paltry compared to the cost of a new structure, so under such circumstances owners would be FORCED to sell.  And no where in the entire Lower Mainland would that sale price buy another property of equal worth.  So you, the government have enacted a grave new Bill with both positive and negative potential.   But here in Abbotsford that Bill is being implemented in a shoddy and possibly illegal way.

Please step in, before the Mayor and Council’s next meeting, Monday Sept. 26th.  We need you to investigate this business……., to give assurance Bill 17 is not just a tool for people in power, with inside information to gain more wealth, at the expense of the rest of the people you govern.

Gerda Peachey,

Abbotsford.

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