"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Friday, March 5, 2010

Plateau pandemonium

It was democracy in action. Or, depending on how you look at it, inaction. I'm talking about the March 3 meeting of the Westwood Plateau Community Association, called to get answers about a revision in regional land designation affecting the Westwood Plateau golf course.
There's obviously much concern and, noteably, some misinformation about City Council's recent request to Metro Vancouver to change the designation from "conservation/recreation" to "general urban."
A vast majority of the 200-300 concerned citizens in attendance (see photo) fear that the change, which the majority of council and city bureaucrats say is necessitated by the development of more precise mapping designations under the revised Draft Regional Growth Strategy, opens the door to possible rezoning and, ultimately, residential development.
I'd be mad as hell, too, if I thought development was a real possibility and if I owned a home near the course--a home for which I most likely paid a premium because of its proximity to all that lovely greenspace.
But while a revised regional designation might make it slightly easier to, one day, develop the land, the fact is that Coquitlam's Official Community Plan and its zoning bylaws already provide quite a bulwark against development. And practical considerations, such as the limited size of water and sewage pipes, also argue against any expansion of the residential footprint.
Moreover, the principle of bringing decisions closer to home--of having Coquitlam Council being in the position of making important decisions affecting Coquitlam, not an unrepresentative Metro Vancouver board holding the most powerful hand--dictates that our residents and their directly elected officials should have most of the decision-making power.
That being said, however, it's clear that the City really dropped the ball on this one. Not only did the redesignation issue blindside Plateau residents, but subsequent efforts to communicate the City's position have obviously failed miserably. And the fact that only one council member, the voluble Lou Sekora, attended the March 3 meeting was clearly a public-relations mistake. I can't recall the last time I heard so much hissing and booing directed absent politicians.
Some of the anger is misplaced, and some of the anti-council, anti-development opinions expressed were ill-informed. Nevertheless, it's abundantly clear that, as the warden in Cool Hand Luke famously said, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
UPDATE: It now appears that, because of the brouhaha, council will, at its March 15 meeting, consider a motion to revisit the issue. It'll be interesting to see the outcome of the discussion. Read the story here.

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