I was saddened to see so few people show up at the council chamber on Monday, Nov. 28 to make their views known as to where they stand on the Development Variance Permit (DVP) for 628 and 638 Columbia St. This historic site was home to Copp’s shoes and was built after the great fire in 1898.
The variance requested had proposed that a one story show room (sales centre) be built across the two vacant lots with parking space at the back for use by BOSA and their “proposed” 660 Quayside project (former Larco site). A condition of the application was that the building be only temporary and be removed after five years.
This is how the evening played out. Three delegates spoke against the Development Variance Permit (DVP). Coun. Puchmayr motioned to reject the DVP. The vote was tied when councillors McEvoy and Harper supported Mr. Puchmayr’s motion. Consequently, councillors Johnston, Williams and Trentadue supported the DVP. So it was up to our Honorable Mayor Cote to make the deciding vote. The result was four to three in favour of the permit. The result was a fair and democratic process.
As I left city hall, I couldn’t help but feel the vote would have favoured the rejection of the DVP if more citizens were there to lend their voices. More troubling was the optics of this process. Putting aside all the reasons we shouldn’t tie up valuable retail space; city hall was voting on a variance for a display centre on a project that has yet to be approved. Mayor Cote asked that delegates speak only to the DVP at hand so the Quayside Drive project was rarely mentioned. An exception was that a city employee told council and guests that Bosa planned to build a “bath tub” spanning the entire site for underground parking. Now I don’t have an engineering degree, but I have enough grey matter to realize this will take a long time. No wonder Bosa wants a five-year temporary site.
It would be a great feather in the cap for the mayor and councillors if they managed to get someone to actually turn soil on the old Larco property. Longtime New Westminster residents have heard and witnessed promises and variance changes and land swaps at the Larco site since the 1980’s. It had become a joke. There are too many side stories to mention. I am bringing this up because I think the motivation to push this project is clouding the city’s vision.
Do we really want to disrupt traffic, have unbearable construction noise, and possible environmental damage during an approximate five- to 10-year period all for the sake of building two gigantic wind catchers and shadow casters that the majority of our citizens don’t want?
City council owes it to all citizens to give fair notice by print, mailer and electronic media when they are voting on this Bosa project and every citizen of New Westminster needs to have their say at that council meeting. Who knows, maybe the city will swap city hall land with Bosa and they can build the towers there where they belong; anywhere off the river shore.
Ken Basso, 29-year resident of New Westminster
General Manager, Royal City Jewellers & Loans Ltd.