Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Metro Vancoucver Developing Zoning Bylaws for UBC Area

With little fanfare or advanced notice the Electoral Area A committee of Metro Vancouver is set to impose zoning bylaws on the UBC area. Information on their plans can be found in the agenda for the October 23rd committee meeting.

The following is the text of a letter I have sent to the Electoral Area A committee members.

As you are aware the system of governance for the area west of Blanca, including the UEL and the University Town areas, leaves much to be desired for many residents of this community. While there are erstwhile 'municipal-like' structures operating in this region, neither the UEL committee nor the UNA have real municipal powers. And then thousands of student residents have no access to any form of local governance.

The Electoral Area A Committee of the GVRD is not a substitute for responsible government. The committee is comprised of one person elected by residents of Electoral Area A and two committee members who's primarily affiliation and democratic responsibility lies outside of the residential community.

The proposed zoning bylaw is actually a step away from real, effective, local governance. The proposed bylaw makes it harder for our community to take local control over our community. While the UNA, for example, may be a flawed governance instrument, it is a local instrument of power and authority. The UNA provides a responsible and flexible form of local government. Rather than expending the time creating zoning bylaws and increasing the administrative infrastructure, why not focus your attention on addressing the democratic deficit?

UBC and our residential communities are a unique example of small town life in an urban setting. The reports comparison with the University of Toronto, McGill University, and other urban universities misses the point with a false analogy. UBC's Point Grey campus and university town is quite different and requires a new different kind of solution that is respectful of our difference.

If the Electoral Area A committee is really concerned about UBC being "landowner, developer, and approver for the campus lands" then why not start working on ensuring that we have a real democratic government in our community?

I fear however, that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Electoral Area A committee is acting in response to interests other than those of us who live within the University Town. And, in so doing, demonstrates yet again that we need to address the democratic deficit., We need local government, not zoning bylaws imposed from the Burnaby head office.

The recommendations before the committee is to refer the zoning bylaw proposal to the UBC/GVRD Joint Committee meeting with the objective of sending a bylaw proposal to the Metro Board at some point in the future. Let's hope that the committee decides to focus on something more useful -real democracy for our community.