A critic of a new regional growth strategy suggests it could result in greater urbanization in West Vancouver. Elizabeth Murphy, a critic of regional and municipal affairs, told the Georgia Straight by phone that regional planners have expanded the urban-containment boundary in the region’s wealthiest suburb.
“I don’t support this draft because, for one, the Regional Growth Strategy implements urban sprawl rather than containing it,” Murphy said. “The Urban Containment Boundaries are expanded to allow conversion of green zones into urban development.”
Murphy made these comments with Vancouver city council set to vote on Metro Vancouver’s third draft of the Regional Growth Strategy, which is the successor to the Livable Region Strategic Plan. The boundaries Metro staff are setting to prevent urban sprawl are “far broader than what they were previously”, Murphy added. In West Vancouver, she said, a large area considered a green zone under the Livable Region Strategic Plan now appears on Metro land-use mapping as “urban”. Another large area of West Vancouver is designated as a “special study area”, which allows a conversion to urban, Murphy claimed.
She also expressed concern that the new document—a comprehensive plan for the region to 2040—could lead to increased density in many parts of Vancouver that have been designated “frequent-transit development” areas.
Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer, on the other hand, believes the Regional Growth Strategy will be “a big step forward in transcending parochialism” and “thinking about how we interact with each other to all our benefits”. In a phone interview with the Straight, Reimer acknowledged that she wasn’t aware of the proposed boundary change in West Vancouver. She said she will probably vote at the Thursday (October 7) planning and environment committee meeting to accept Metro’s revised draft.
“I’d be prepared to vote for it, notwithstanding that there are smaller pieces that need to be looked at in detail,” Reimer said. “And if it lays a foundation for the next regional plan to be developed, if this is the starting place, I think we are in a good, strong position here. This will be foundational, and the next piece five or 10 years down the road really needs to build on this work.”
According to the revised growth strategy, the five main goals of the regional document are to create compact urban areas, create a sustainable economy, protect the environment, create complete communities with smaller carbon footprints, and create sustainable transportation choices.
On September 30, Vancouver activist Ned Jacobs, son of the late urban-affairs writer and activist Jane Jacobs, penned a letter to Vancouver council members claiming that the frequent-transit development areas as set forth in the draft—called corridors in previous drafts—will still cover the entire city proper. Jacobs and his group Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver do not support this, claiming it will create citywide development pressure.
“We do not see any community support for the transfer of authority or influence over land use planning within the City of Vancouver to senior levels of government, other than for protection of green zones and industrial land to prevent sprawl,” Jacobs wrote. “The proposed changes”¦do not address these previous concerns.”
Reimer said she sent Jacobs a note explaining that the provincial government decision in 2007 to separate land-use planning from transportation planning provides enough clarity.
“The [Metro] regional board only deals with land-use planning,” she said. “It does not deal with transportation decisions. So regional staff in the last draft wanted urban centres in these frequent-transit development corridors to be on a map with lines, and any modification of them would have to go to the regional board. The current draft says no lines on a map, only broad indications of where they are, and that they are entirely under the jurisdiction of local government.”
City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto, a supporter of the Regional Growth Strategy, refuted claims that the current draft gives too much power to the region.
“No, I think it’s gone the other way: it’s almost giving too much control to the local municipalities,” Mussatto told the Straight by phone. “I think that we need a growth strategy that looks over the region as a whole. So what’s good for the whole region? If anything, I think we need more power [given] to Metro.”
All municipalities will see this differently, according to Mussatto. Reimer noted that she and Mussatto are from higher-density communities, which have different priorities and constraints than lower-density municipalities.
Mussatto said his city is “surrounded” by a municipality, the District of North Vancouver.
“We cannot grow out, so we have to grow within our boundaries,” he said. “So we faced the music years ago, and I think that all other municipalities need to do that and to have boundaries so that they contain the growth and put it in the right place as the type of growth that it needs to be.”
That works better under a regional model, according to Mussatto.
“Now, [Burnaby mayor Derek] Corrigan has argued that we need more power at the municipal level,” he said. “I’m thinking that we’ve gone just about as far as we can before watering it down too much. You know, you need peer pressure. If we left it up to every municipality, it would be a free-for-all.”