EFry public hearing will likely be a feisty one

A public hearing for a controversial rezoning application is shaping up to be a heated affair.

Catherine Cartwright, a lower Sapperton resident who opposes the Elizabeth Fry Society's rezoning application in her neighbourhood, appeared before council on Monday night to voice concerns about the project. Cartwright said the amount of parking being proposed for the project is "ludicrous" and doesn't "add up."

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Cartwright suggested staff isn't informing council of the inadequacy of parking being proposed.

"They just don't want you to know it," she said.

Council members took exception with Cartwright's comments that targeted staff.

"They have a job to do," said Mayor Wayne Wright. "They follow a process. They do not do things out of hand."

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver has applied to re-zone 273 and 275 Sherbrooke St. from residential dwelling districts to a comprehensive development district zone. The society is proposing to construct a building at the site that includes a three-storey component (a multi-purpose space would be on the ground floor and the society's offices would be on the second and third floors), and a two-storey component that includes 10 units of independent long-term, non-market housing for women and women with children.

Despite widespread opposition from the immediate neighbourhood, council approved an official community plan amendment for the site in June. The proposal presented at that time included a four-storey and a two-storey building, but the four-storey portion has been downsized to three storeys and a 37-space licensed childcare centre on the ground floor has been eliminated for the time being.

More than 60 people addressed council during a six-hour public hearing in June. While many area residents voiced fears that the institutional project would lead to the "destruction" of their single-family neighbourhood, supporters spoke of the need for more affordable housing and child-care services.

The public hearing for the rezoning application will take place on Monday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. in council chambers.

On Oct. 15, Cartwright told council that there are people in her neighbourhood who believe the "fix is in" at city hall to ensure the development is approved.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said people on both sides of the debate handled themselves quite well at the previous public hearing. He said the city understands the sensitivity of the issue and has been generous in giving people the opportunity to speak, and he hopes the process can move forward in a respectful manner.

"This is a place where laws and rules are made," he said about council chambers. "I think there needs to be dignity."

Puchmayr said delegations should refrain from making subjective comments that can't be backed up. He said he has no reason to believe that staff is "misleading" council, as Cartwright suggested.

Coun. Betty McIntosh said parking has been an issue in Sapperton for some time.

"I am concerned about the process we are going through," she said. "I think it has caused a lot of stress for everyone, not just residents but staff."

Coun. Bill Harper said the decision about the rezoning application lies with the seven people around the council table, so it's unfair to level accusations like "the fix is in" at staff.

"I think you are being disrespectful," he said. "I think you have been disrespectful in your letters to the papers as well."

Cartwright has scrutinized documents relating to the society's application and voiced concerns about information that she believes to be erroneous or inconsistent.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy told Cartwright that city council has a number of roles, which include listening to the public and overseeing the city - which includes providing a suitable workplace for staff. He said there is a "strong willingness" on council's part to accept information about the project.

tmcmanus@royalcityrecord.com

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