Concerned Citizens’ Gregory Hartnell maintains nine storey mid-rise height limit for downtown Victoria ‘ still is reasonable’

CCC .  . .   Re:  “Aiming Low,” May 8-14 . . .  CCC . . .  Sid Tafler is right on the mark in his well-reasoned analysis of everything that is wrong with the City of Vicoria’s new so-called “Cross-Town” downtown plan.  He correctly notes the glaring disparity between the current city council’s failure to show leadership in the provision of badly needed social housing for the homeless, and its propensity to accommodate developers insensitive to the traditional mid-rise heights of most of downtown Victoria’s existing buildings.  This article complements another that he wrote recently in ‘Monday,’ suggesting many of the new high-rises in the Humboldt Valley are actually empty of human habitation, and built merely for real-estate speculators to flip.   . . . CCC . . . Tafler quotes councillor Pam Madoff saying, “I can’t find anything good to say about high-rises.”  If Madoff is so dead-set against high-rises, one wonders why she recently voted with the rest of the tired council to unanimously endorse the Cross-Town plan?  That plan would allow building heights along Douglas and Yates Streets to reach heights as high as 72 metres, or up to 24 storeys.  In contrast, Tafler asks, “What’s wrong with four storeys, or six storeys or eight?” . . . CCC . . . In the last municipal election when I ran as a mayoral candidate for the Concerned Citizens’ Coalition in the City of Victoria, I advocated a height limit of nine storeys.  I still think that is a reasonable limit for mid-rise building construction in downtown Victoria. . . CCC  . . . .  I am disappointed in councillors Madoff and Sonya Chandler, who supported the developers’ lobby in this recent crucial vote on the future shape of our downtown.  I voted for Chandler in the last election, but will not make the same mistake again.  As for the rest of the incumbents, it is surely time to send all of them packing and have them replaced by new people who will put our urgent social housing problems first in the order of the city’s agenda – rather than pandering to real estate and developers’ interests. . . . CCC . . . Gregory Hartnell [Concerned Citizens’ Coalition 2005 City of Victoria mayoral candidate] . . . . CCC

 [The above letter was reprinted from page 5 of the May 15, 2008 number of Monday Magazine, where it appeared under the meaningless headline ‘The low spark of high rise buildings.’  Paragraph endings are indicated by the ‘CCC’ moniker.. . . CCC]  


Dr. Rebecca Warburton gives compelling reasons to question and oppose land-based sewage treatment in Capital Regional District at Fairfield meeting


  Doctor Rebecca Warburton, a University of Victoria professor of health economics gave a compelling argument questioning the need for politically-fueled land-based sewage treatment at a free public meeting organized by the Fairfield Community Association in the Garry Oak Room on Tuesday, May 13, 2008.

  Representing the Responsible Sewage Treatment Victoria group, Dr. Warburton maintained, as have 10 other eminent UVic scientists, a number of Capital Regional District Public Health Officers, including Dr. Richard Stanwick, and Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca Member of Parliament Dr. Keith Martin, that the scientific evidence simply does not warrant the new system, ordered by British Columbia Environment Minister Penner.  

  She also explained how the costs would impact typical taxpayers in the various municipalities, and suggested that these costs would likely inflate over the length of the project.    Her presentation was clear, assured and easily understandable to the overflow audience, most of whom gave her an enthusiastic endorsement after her alloted time of twenty minutes.  

  Two other speakers also spoke to the issue.  The first was a fat CRD bureaucrat by the name of Dwayne Kalynchuk, who abused the audience by going on for about 40 minutes, practically doubling the amount of time allotted to him by the moderator, Sid Tafler, a free-lance journalist.  Mr. Kalynchuk’s presentation started by alluding to so-called ‘scientific triggers’ that needed to be met before sewage treatment was warranted under law.  He quickly skipped over the triggers, however, and acted as if the Minister’s order made sewage treatment a fait accompli.  His presentation was heavy with techno-speak, was repetitive, and confusing to this writer.    

  The last speaker was another true believer in land-based sewage treatment, Stephen Salter, an engineer representing the Georgia Strait Alliance, an environmental group that has long advocated such treatment.  He also acted as if the idea was a fait accompli, but to his credit, he made conservation arguments which seemed to be fiscally conservative, questioning the need to spend an estimated $1,200,000,000 on the apparently unnecessary megaproject.  

  He argued that a decentralized system was preferable to a centralized one, citing apparently successful Swedish models of land-based sewage treatment which ‘close the ecological loop,’ as he put it, and capture resources from the sludge that can be turned into energy, and which save treated water from simply being flushed out to sea.    

  A question-and-answer period after these presentations allowed the concerned taxpayers to question the panel.  Questions of concern came from the full spectrum of opinion on the issue.  

  Some assumed that despite the scientific consensus referred to by Dr. Warburton, land-based sewage treatment was still needed.  They tended to favour the analysis of Mr. Salter.  

  Many others tended to find fault with the lack of public consultation undertaken by the CRD and the various municipalities.  Some expressed concern that the project would end up being a so-called ‘private-public -partnership,’ one that would benefit corporate friends of the so-called Liberal government, and would thus not be strictly in the public interest, as a union-friendly purely public project would be.

  One Oriental gentleman pointed out that we apparently live in a democracy, but that there was very little opportunity for democracy so far in the process.  Dr. Warburton pointed out that the provincial Campbell Liberal government has recently enacted legislation making it virtually impossible to undertake a public referendum on this and similar issues.    

  There were two members of the Victoria City Council in attendance, but as was the case in the recent meeting of concerned parents worried about the placement of the so-called ‘needle exchange’ near Saint Andrew’s Elementary, these councillors kept their own counsel, so to speak, and said absolutely nothing.  

  Near the end of the meeting, I thanked Mr. Tafler, Mr. Roueche and the Fairfield Communicty Association for having organized the meeting, castigating the City of Victoria and the CRD for not having done so.  I asked Mr. Kalynchuk whether the so-called scientific ‘triggers’ to which he referred had actually been triggered, and he reluctantly admitted that they had not, but it was clear to me that he was uncomfortable in having to admit this fact.

   I also pointed out that there were two Victoria City councillors in attendance, without naming them, and suggested that this issue was one about which we needed to learn their positions, as the issue was bound to be one of great interest to taxpayers in the upcoming municipal election.    

  The shamefully silent councillors in attendance were Dean Fortin and Geoff Young, both of whom are thought to be mulling runs for the mayor’s seat in the upcoming election.  After the meeting, Mr. Young walked right by me on his way home, and did not return the courtesy of my salutation of ‘Good night, Geoff,’ as he walked silently by.  I suppose he has a lot on his mind these days…


Mayor Lowe stalls again on release of public interest information about investigation into Chief Battershill

[CCC]    Contrary to what he said when he first received the report into the investitgation of allegations against his Police Chief, Mayor Alan Lowe today said that he may need as much as a month more of time to process the information.  Upon initial receipt of the report, Alan Lowe said that he would need about two weeks to read the report over and over again, presumably so that he could digest all the minutiae in it.  ++  An article in the monopoly daily newspaper the Times-Colonist has an article about the problem today.  In the meantime, the ‘Vic PD,’ as the Victoria Police Department now styles itself, is looking for a new Police Chief.  Mr. Battershill is still on paid leave to do nothing and his contract expires this November.  One wonders whether he will be paid to sit down and twiddle his thumbs until that expiration date, and still receive cheques from the somnolent Victoria City Council?  [CCC]

Victoria City Council unanimously endorses ‘Cross-Town’ plan allowing 24 storey buildings downtown

+++  Victoria City Council has completely capitulated to the real estate and developers’ lobby by endorsing the so-called ‘Cross-Town’ plan for downtown building development. ‘Council unanimously endorsed the Cross Town vision,’ according to an article by Keith Vass in the Victoria News (‘Council OKs vision for downtown,’ May 9, 2008).  The subhead informs us that the core of the city will ‘grow north, east and skyward, with building heights reaching 72 metres.’  ++  In a related article written by Sid Tafler in Monday Magazine (‘Aiming Low,’ May 8), Victoria City Councillor Pam Madoff is quoted as saying, ‘I can’t find anything good to say about high rises.’  And yet, if the article in the Victoria News is correct, Councillor Madoff and all the rest of the tired incumbent Victoria City Council voted to radically change the look of downtown Victoria forever.  ++  Are high-rises inherently wrong or evil?  Of course not; they have a certain utility in other less attractive cities that may be plagued by social problems far greater than those of Victoria with its estimated 1,500 homeless.  ++  Victoria is unique in having an already built downtown environment that for the most part is still in the mid-rise range of up to nine storeys.  It is not too late to change direction, realizing that the recent unusual spurt in high-rise development is the exception to the historical rule of reasonable height restrictions that make Victoria so attractive to residents and tourists alike.  ++  But the dereliction of duty to the poor, and the mad rush to accommodate the whims of the developers and real estate speculators under the administration of Mayor Alan Lowe, has resulted in the shameful neglect of the poorest of the poor, while the skyline of Victoria grows ever more monotonous and undistinguished from that of any other comparable sized North American city.  ++  I just phoned Mr. Tafler to congratulate him on his recent articles in Monday, and to encourage him to run for Council, even for the position of mayor.  He graciously declined, suggesting that what he was doing was learning how to write in a spirit of service.  His humility is commendable, but my fear is that he is underestimating himself, and thus depriving Victorians of the option of a sane alternative voice to consider in the wilderness of Victoria’s increasingly materialistic political culture.  +++