A resident’s perspective.
I expect that some Councillors already recognize that last night’s vote on the motion “That the final design, location and high level budget estimate of the proposed permanent Skatepark Facility be approved” is not valid because it was based on false and misleading information provided by the Mayor and City Staff on the question of whether City Council had already approved the site.
The December 16 Council Meeting was the first meeting at which Council was asked to approve the Silvercreek Park location for the skatepark. I hasten to add that this request from staff was improperly placed before Council because there had not been the consultation with the public (including providing city-wide notification of proposed changes in a City-wide Open Space , with follow-up collection of responses and one or more public meetings to establish community views) and there had not been the required consultation with the two centrally-important City Advisory Groups (RSAC and EAC) that had been required by Council.
On the previous Council meeting on this issue September 26 2011 Council was asked to endorse the recommendation of the Skateboard Advisory Group as to the Silvercreek Park location. Unfortunately there was no stated recommendation of this group in the staff report although there was a staff and Advisory Group conclusion that “the Silvercreek Park site most closely matches the criteria necessary for a viable site.”
I note at this point that the criteria used in the internal-to-staff site-selection process were never presented to the public for scrutiny, a key part of a public consultation process. Had there been opportunity for public input the major errors in the selection criteria could and would have been noted (successful skateparks need to be in prominent locations with ample provision for spectators, downtown highly-urban settings are desirable, the separation distance from residences used (>>the 15 m noise limit) was unrealistically high as shown by the large number of successful parks close to residences in neighbouring communities and throughout Canada and the United States).
The motion that Council passed “To endorse the recommendation of the Skateboard Advisory Group” requires interpretation since no stated recommendation was before Council. Fortunately the meaning of the motion is made clear both by the wording of the rest of the motion and the list of proposed staff actions in the staff report on which the motion is based.
The actions that staff asked Council to endorse were:
•that they solicit input from the user community, members of the public, other agencies and interested parties on the proposed location and design of the park
•the development of a more detailed construction budget based on both the square footage available at the site and the Skateplaza design concept, including some preliminary design work if necessary
•that funding options for the skateboard park be explored and brought back to Council for consideration.
The September 26 2011 Council motion took note of these proposed staff actions as follows:
AND THAT staff be directed to report back to the Committee the results of consulting with the public, relevant agencies and the skateboarding community on the primary site and design features;
AND THAT staff be directed to use residual capital funds currently in RP0340 York Road Park, to develop a detailed budget estimate based on the recommended site and design and to report the results back to the Community & Social Services Committee.
The gist of the Council motion was to endorse the Silvercreek site as the “primary site” and to direct staff to do due diligence on the suitability, feasibility, and public acceptability of this location for a skatepark and to report back to Council the results obtained from the consultations, including the mandatory public consultation on changes to a city-wide Open Space and the conclusion of consultations (including the recommendations made) from RSAC and EAC and other relevant agencies.
As an aside I am surprised that Council did not take up the recommendations of staff to direct staff to explore funding options for the skateboard park as this seems a most prudent action.
The bottom line is that Council DID NOT APPROVE the Silvercreek site on September 26 2011 but did list the information Council would need to have presented before Council could make a decision on whether or not to approve the site. The staff report presented to Council on December 16 2013 did not contain the essential information on the results of public consultation and Advisory Committee consultation required by Council before a decision to approve was made.
A further important note is that I believe Council was (unintentionally) misinformed by the General Manager of Planning as to whether the zoning of the subject location allows a skateboard structure. Council was told the existing zoning did allow a skateboard structure. I have asked the General Manager to review the information provided.
The location has a Core Greenland Designation which carries with it a prohibition of development and has permitted uses limited to conservation activities, open space and passive recreational pursuits. The FL zoning of the site spells out the specific uses permitted. Of key importance is the statement in the zoning that ” No permanent Structures or Buildings are permitted in this Zone” . There are some exceptions for public utilities, sewage treatment plants and flood-control works but structures such as a skateboard facility are prohibited.
Council is faced with the situation that a motion was passed under the assumption that the site had already been approved by Council when it had not been approved. Furthermore the information that Council had clearly stated must be available before a decision to approve was made was not presented to City Council on December 16. There may have been misleading information presented to council about the zoning of the site.
In these circumstances I see no option for Council except to reopen the issue at a future Council meeting to rescind the defective motion, to require staff to present the due diligence report required by Council on September 26 2011, and to follow the usual planning practice of receiving the staff report on the site at a Council meeting with allowance for comment from the public on the report, and making a decision at a subsequent Council meeting after staff have time to respond to the comments received.
I look forward to your comments on these observations and recommendations HW