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Metro wants hammer to end growth plan impasse

Metro Vancouver is to receive more than a million more people over the next 30 years. The regional growth strategy aims to ensure that happens efficiently without sacrificing farmland and green space. - File
Metro Vancouver is to receive more than a million more people over the next 30 years. The regional growth strategy aims to ensure that happens efficiently without sacrificing farmland and green space.
— image credit: File

Metro Vancouver voted Friday to seek binding arbitration to swiftly settle objections from Coquitlam to its proposed regional growth strategy, which now has the backing of all other cities.

The holdout council rejected the new plan as inconsistent, riddled with exemptions and vesting too much control in the hands of the regional board.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart wanted the region to pursue mediation instead but most directors voted to ask the province to impose a binding solution.

The master plan to control development would draw a new urban containment boundary to prevent sprawl, add mechanisms to limit the loss of industrial land and continue the region's aims of protecting green space and farmland. It would replace the outdated Livable Region Strategic Plan.

Time is of the essence, regional planning committee chair Derek Corrrigan said, because civic elections are coming this fall.

Mediation could take until well past November, when a newly elected set of councillors and mayors will take over, potentially setting negotiations back years.

The process has already consumed several years, three sets of consultations, dozens of public meetings and thousands of hours of staff time.

Corrigan said Metro "bent over backwards" in a failed effort to accommodate Coquitlam.

Stewart – who admits some on his council oppose the entire concept of regional planning – said so many concessions have been made to each city that the document is now little more than a conglomeration of local plans.

"I don't think it's a regional plan," he said, pointing to the different land designations for golf courses in various cities around the region.

"I personally want the best RGS we can get – one that protects the livability of our region and one that fixes the flaws in the current RGS."

Coquitlam is accused of acting in bad faith by deciding late in the process – just in the last few months – that the plan is unpalatable and last month tabling a near-blanket rejection of it.

Corrigan also suggested Coquitlam council was swayed by development industry lobbyists who oppose tighter land-use controls.

The request for binding arbitration was opposed by directors from Coquitlam and Vancouver, as well as Surrey's Marvin Hunt.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini said he also supported Coquitlam's request for the more conciliatory mediation option, but disagreed the plan lacks merit.

"Yes it is an amalgamation of local plans, but they are under a regional umbrella of a shared vision for the region," Trasolini said, adding cities have a responsibility to work together to manage growth and protect green space.

Board chair Lois Jackson said it's unfortunate the plan is now being held up by just one city.

Port Moody had also voted to reject the plan but gave a series of conditions on which it would accept.

Metro's board agreed to the city's demands it be exempted from targets for population, housing and job growth until construction of the Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension and Murray-Clarke Overpass are assured.

Trasolini said putting those concessions in the plan sends a message to the province and TransLink that the two transportation projects are critical.

Concerns of critics range from fears of more construction creeping higher up the mountains in West Vancouver to the possible loss of agricultural land in parts of Langley and Richmond.

The growth strategy, titled Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future, would guide development across the region as Metro's population grows by an estimated 1.2 million to to 3.4 million by 2040.

It aims to concentrate development in urban areas well served by transit.

Eighteen member municipalities agreed to adopt the plan by the March 22 deadline, as did the Tsawwassen First Nation, TransLink and the two neighbouring regional districts.

 

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