Letter to City Council: CVN offers support to City Council, raises concerns about electronic meetings, Public Hearings

The following letter went to Vancouver City Council on March 30, 2020, offering support during the COVID-19 emergency, and also pointing out concerns regarding electronic meetings and Public Hearings during this time.

City of Vancouver Council
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councillors,

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN) would like you to know that we appreciate the work that you have done, are doing, and will continue to do in promoting our health and safety during this time of crisis.

We would also like you to know that we are ready to assist in any way we can, whenever and however such assistance may be needed.

We also recognize the need for special powers for the City under a state of emergency, as recently provided under BC ministry order. While these emergency powers are needed, we trust these will be used judiciously for emergency purposes to deal with COVID-19.

While the use of electronic council meetings may be required for social distancing under the current emergency, consideration should be given to the fact that without public participation as normally required under the Vancouver Charter, it is not business as usual. Only the most urgent of business should be undertaken at this time under emergency order.

Public hearings require full public involvement and should not proceed under emergency order unless they are truly of an emergency nature. Rezoning is not an emergency so referrals to public hearings should be suspended until restrictions on public gatherings are lifted. This is especially important for rezonings of a controversial nature, such as the 28 storeys at the former Denny’s site, Birch and Broadway that is currently on the March 31 Special Council Meeting agenda.

We appreciate the challenges with this crisis and thank the City for a judicious response.

Larry Benge, Dorothy Barkley