Council made two key votes last Tuesday, both of which represented communication issues for the city.
First, at council meeting, they approved a height variance for a new hotel in the Farwell neighbourhood. I’m not going to make a judgement call on the merit of the variance. My concern is with the way council handled the matter. There was a two week public comment period, and eight responses came back. Some were for it, some were ambivalent and most were opposed.
What was noteworthy about council’s discussion is that they didn’t even give lip service to the feedback. The variance was approved without so much of a mention of the letters opposing the request. This was noted by myself and Emily Kemp of the Mountaineer, who both questioned council about this. The letters might not have changed council’s mind, but ignoring them sends a message that their input doesn’t matter.
That evening, council and about 150 community members gathered at the community centre for the public hearing on the Mackenzie Village proposal for Arrow Heights. Forty-four people spoke, most were Arrow Heights’ residents who were against it, but council voted in favour regardless. They did mention the concerns about density and vacation rentals and said they would address those at a later meeting.
Council needs to act on those concerns so people don’t feel the hearing was a formality before the vote. They don’t need to address every issue, but if Mackenzie Village goes ahead as proposed without a serious debate on debsity and vacation rentals, they risk having a large number of alienated, angry residents in Arrow Heights.
Worse, if people get the impression their input doesn’t matter, it means the city will get less of it, which could result in poorer decisions being made in the future. Don’t let that happen.