Many people have asked how our councillor, Vivian Santos, could have voted against what was clearly the wish of the majority of Exchange District residents. Best to let her speak for herself.
Hearing the Hearing
Councillor Vivian Santos, in announcing her decision to allow the high rise development:
"...I am disappointed as well in the residents. The NIMBYism that comes out of everybody within the Exchange is mind-boggling! To say you would rather have a parking lot than have 90 fresh brand-new units that would encourage people to come and live and play in the downtown…
So I am really stuck here having to choose whether or not I would like to support a building or versus a parking lot … and I have always been about for people, and I want people to come and live downtown in the Exchange but at the expense of 12 feet?
Ya, its a very difficult situation and I’m totally disappointed and I’m put in the middle of it. You know there should be black and white. You should have our bylaws.
Where are our bylaws? Where is the secondary plan? This the lack in city planning. Where are these documents? They are like 20 years old. You know what, if we had proper documentation, a proper secondary plan, we probably wouldn’t be here because we would have these rules intact.
We would have the tools in our toolbox already set and I would just tell Bryce look, these are the rules follow them and that’s the development you need to have. But here we are. We are living in the gray and we have to live in the gray. And I have to make the tough decision today on where I want to be.
And with that in mind I’m probably going to make somebody mad and my decision is I’m going to support the appeal today."
Councillor Janice Lukes voted to support Councillor Santos. Two votes for the appeal.
Councillor Kevin Klein talked about following the rules, not making new rules for every developer that asks. The by-law states 100 feet, and at last year's appeal, it was decided to grant the developer a minimum modification to 110 feet. He voted against the appeal as he felt a decision had already been made. Two for and one against, with one vote remaining.
The committee chair, Councillor Cindy Gilroy, agreed with Councillor Klien, and was the only one to talk about the heritage aspect of this appeal. In her own words:
"I do not support the appeal. I agree with Councilor Klein, that we did make a decision a year ago. It was a tough decision a year ago. I don’t agree with some of my councillor colleagues - I think we do have rules and they are fair. And our administration is following those rules. I am somebody who really believes in density and we hear that all the time, that this project won’t happen if we don’t have the density. It’s a common, common thing that we hear. There’s lots of different places where you can put up a building and get that density.
In this location; its a very important location for our city and I think that we have to make sure that we are maintaining our heritage areas and I am a big, big believer in that. That doesn’t mean that you still can’t have a beautiful structure on top of the old building. It means that you have to conform with the rules and regulations that we put in place and there was a big decision to have it at a 110’ instead of the 100’ last year. So I’m going to stick with the decision that we made last year. I think what I heard from a lot of the people that were in delegation here today that they had already made that decision that okay its 110’, its going to be a 110’ but they said please keep it at 110’ so that’s what we should do here today and that why I’m going to support the decision that I’m making here today."
Santos: I move that the requested height be allowed permitting a building height of 123.5 and that the variance be cancelled.
All those in favour Santos , Lukes
All those opposed Klein, Gilroy
The motion is lost due to a tie vote; the appeal is declared lost.
The City Clerk mailed a final order to everyone who registered in opposition to the appeal, and frankly, I find it an impressive showing of a community who spoke loudly. Check out the official Variance Appeal Order and note on page five that there were 5 people who were in support of the appeal. Then on pages 5, 6 and 7 they list the 283 people who registered their opposition against the height of this proposed development.
So while the Exchange Residents spoke out in great numbers against this appeal, it was sad to see that our own councillor did not vote to support us. Luckily two others did.
Just to be clear, I don't think anyone in opposition to the building prefers a parking lot, but they are adamant about maintaining the character of the Exchange District. It is not a choice between a building and a parking lot. A building would be great -- but not this building. It is way too tall at almost 2 ½ times the height of the adjacent buildings.
Hopefully this developer, or another, can design and build a new structure on this site, something that pays respect to the historical buildings that surround it for those buildings are the framework of this wonderful National Historic Site.