It is an iron rule of politics that all government policies will have some unforeseeable consequences, those “unknown unknowns” that Donald Rumsfeld described in one of the most poetic press conferences of the Bush Jr. administration.
The strangest part of BC NDP Bill 44, however, is that there was no attempt to plan for even the most incredibly foreseeable consequences.
On Nov. 24, Langley Mayor Eric Woodward took to Facebook to describe how Bill 44 undermines the municipality’s neighborhood plans.
Woodward describes how the bill puts the brakes on “ten years of urban planning and public consultation” for the new Booth, Rinn and Fernridge plans.
Langley’s plan for these neighborhoods called for primarily single-family housing, with more density in certain areas, increasing the total population to 47,000.
House Bill 44 requires municipalities with more than 5,000 residents to allow four to six housing units on single-family residential lots and prohibits them from requiring off-street parking for small-scale multifamily housing (secondary suites, garden suites, houses- complexes, semi-detached houses, etc.).
The new requirements mean that the projected population of these three neighborhoods must be revised upwards by a whopping 144 percent, to 115,000.
Woodward notes that the infrastructure planned for these neighborhoods (from recreational facilities to water and sewer services) would no longer be sufficient.
At the end of his post, Woodward explains that since the neighborhood’s plans are “simply no longer working as planned,” he will ask Langley councilors to repeal them.
Ten years of planning and urban consultation are going down the drain.
Langley may be the first of many cities to move away from neighborhood plans tailored to the needs and desires of local communities, now that the BC NDP has transferred zoning control to Victoria and opened the quad floodgates.
In a little reported statementthe president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, Trish Mandewo, warns of this same result.
While acknowledging that House Bill 44 “has the potential to increase the supply” of housing, Mandewo explains that it could also “undo careful planning in many communities to ensure neighborhoods are properly configured to handle growth.”
This loss of local control will be keenly felt in British Columbia’s smaller communities, which are struggling at best to provide the infrastructure needed to accommodate provincial population growth.
View Royal, a city of 11,575 in Greater Victoria, held a community meeting on Nov. 21 titled The Last Public Hearing, in reference to the removal of Bill 44 from rezoning public hearings.
I contacted View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias who told me his concerns about Bill 44.
He maintains that if his city loses control over which areas are densified, it will not be able to plan “sidewalks, lighting and on-street parking to ensure the safety and accessibility of the additional population.”
Also of concern to Tobias is the provision in House Bill 44 that prohibits municipalities from requiring off-street parking for small-scale multifamily housing.
He explained that since the roads in View Royal are typically single lane with open ditches, preventing municipalities from requiring off-street parking “disperses those cars on the road,” making it “impossible to service the roads in looking for snow during the winter or guaranteeing the passage of traffic. and emergency vehicles.”
How could the BC NDP not have foreseen such an obvious problem?
That’s simple: not consulting the towns that were unilaterally rezoning.
Tobias said View Royal’s mayor, council and staff were never consulted about the latest round of provincial housing legislation.
Instead, the Ministry of Housing gave them “technical instructions” and left them little time to ask questions or give their opinion.
Deprived of a proper consultation process, municipalities were left without a voice when the BC NDP transferred local zoning control to Victoria.
As the unforeseen (but very foreseeable) consequences become blindingly evident, will more mayors stand up for their communities and oppose this disastrous bill?
Riley Donovan is a freelance columnist and researcher living on Salt Spring Island.