NPA park board commissioner John Coupar says Vancouver’s parks and green space have little protection from development.
Coupar says the recent speculation about the future of Langara Golf Course inspired him to research how this city’s parks are protected. While the park board is considering a motion that would see part of the course reclaimed as park land, some feel it should be opened up to housing and development.
According to Coupar, any park or green space can be taken out of the city’s inventory by a simple two-thirds majority vote at the park board or city council. He noted Vision Vancouver holds that very majority.
Coupar is bringing a motion on notice to the park board at its July 23 meeting asking that staff work with the city’s legal department to develop strategies and legal means to ensure parks and green spaces are protected in perpetuity. Coupar also wants the public to be informed of the progress being made on this motion every six months.
“This might mean a change to the Vancouver Charter,” said Coupar. “But it will be worth it.”
Coupar and fellow NPA commissioner Melissa De Genova have called a special public meeting for July 17 because they say the Vision Vancouver majority on the board is making moves to limit debate at committee meetings.
Coupar says it began when the Vision majority on the board voted to consolidate its planning and environment and services and budgets committees into a single entity called the park board committee. It then voted to hold committee meetings immediately prior to regular park board meetings.
Coupar says this doesn’t give commissioners enough time to research an item or issue before voting on it. He adds questions and discussion are also now limited to five minutes, so he argues commissioners won’t have all the information needed to make informed decisions. Coupar and De Genova called the meeting after receiving an email last week from Vision Vancouver commissioner Niki Sharma, who detailed the rules and included a reminder they must limit their discussion to five minutes each. Coupar says he was previously told that if he wanted more time to speak he could make that request at a meeting. He adds he recently made such a request, but was turned down. As far as motions are concerned, questions to staff will not be allowed.
But Sharma says these rules aren’t new. In fact, Sharma told me these rules were introduced by an NPA-dominated park board in 2006. She says every park board chair since has had their own style of managing meetings, so while some adhered to the rules, others haven’t.
She adds the reason committee and park board meetings are now held the same night is to not only save on staff time and costs, but also so the public doesn’t have to attend two meetings to be heard.
“Everyone still has an opportunity to speak,” said Sharma. “But it’s also important to be respectful of all of the commissioners. They are elected officials and should all have the same opportunity to speak.”