Committee approves arena's site plan
Local news - Friday, September 22, 2006 @ 07:00
The city's planning committee handed off technical approvals of the new downtown arena last night, avoiding a potentially expensive and politically explosive delay.
But they only did it after a pointed and very public tongue-lashing by Mayor Harvey Rosen, who attended last night's meeting at City Hall to persuade politicians opposed to the $41-million project to instead approve of the site plan.
The committee was considering the site-plan application for the new building and a number of its members had concerns over issues such as parking and noise from the rooftop equipment.
They could have delayed approval of the project for another month by asking staff to get answers to technical questions about the issue from staff.
But Rosen, who is a member of the committee, charged that politicians were overstepping their authority and expertise by trying to take over matters that are routinely handled by city planning staff on every other development.
"Basically, what this committee wants to do is babysit staff on this matter," he said.
"I don't think there's any member of this committee who would know what the allowable decibel exceedance 60 metres from the inside wall is, but staff do."
He said said further delays in the project could throw off the construction schedule and bring added costs to city taxpayers and that the political decisions had already been made.
"I think the politics being played right now are a delay game," he said.
"To say I'm disappointed in this committee is an understatement."
Early in the debate, Councillor Beth Pater made a motion calling on the city to give final authority to planning staff, subject to a report to the committee next month on the outstanding technical issues.
The builders, EllisDon, would have been allowed to put in the building's foundation in the meantime.
She said she was "disappointed" in missing or incomplete information from EllisDon concerning issues such as noise and said it was an attempt to keep politicians apprised of what later information would show.
"I have no intention of delaying this project," she said.
Other politicians said they were accountable to their constituents.
"If everything is turned back to staff, do members of the public have confidence that they will have access to the documents and information?" asked Councillor Kevin George.
Planning staff countered that all reports submitted by the developer were public information that could be reviewed by anyone, and agreed to regularly brief the committee on ongoing technical issues. The building must meet all applicable provincial and muncipal building standards before it can go ahead.
Pater's amendment went on to lose 5-4, and the motion to hand off site plan approval to staff passed by a 6-3 vote.
"If we have confidence in our staff to resolve site plan issues with Ravensview, which is the biggest project ever undertaken by this municipality, we should have confidence in their ability to resolve the issues here," said planning committee chairman George Stoparczyk.