Appeared in the North Shore News – September 11, 2015
Long experience persuades me that the difference between rumours and official statements is that the former are usually more accurate than the latter.
Case in point: The thick fog around nautically jaunty Hollyburn Sailing Club.
It’s due south of West Vancouver’s supposed gateway to a grand civic future, the Grosvenor development. And were the club’s quarters, um, quite up to snuff, you know, for purchasers of Grosvenor condos? — prices estimated by Coun. Craig Cameron ranging from $2 million to $5 million, and that was in 2013, ancient times in local real estate history. (To be fair, Grosvenor claims not to oppose the club’s locale.)
So as the five-year lease expiry date of Dec. 31 approached, negotiations between town hall and the sailors became a matter of speculation.
Mayor Michael Smith declared in January that town hall and the club had signed a new five-year lease. End of story? Not. Ray Richards, Christine Ballantine, Scenerey Slater and others had doubts.
Christine Ballantine raised a petition signed by more than 800 to preserve the club and clarify the lease terms.
Quite unnecessary, she was assured by a town hall staffer as recently as 10 days ago: “I have no idea where people get their information from and wish they would take time to check with the district before creating fear and angst in the community; the Hollyburn Sailing Club is a vital piece of Ambleside and I can assure you it is not being closed.”
The only way to dispel (or confirm) the uneasy rumours was by reading the lease. Thanks to Mayor Smith’s aide, Sabia Curran, I have.
Which turned up some highly pertinent words. A section of the previous lease is deleted and replaced by Section 2 (ii): “The District, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to terminate this lease at any time during the term upon a minimum of 12 months written notice, which notice may be given at any time (and shall not be restricted to an anniversary of the commencement date).”
Couldn’t be plainer. The lease hugely favours the landlord — who could say, with a straight face, “We have negotiated a five-year lease” (true), without adding “which we can terminate unilaterally” (unspoken truth). Which revealed more, the rumour or the official line?
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A quiet departure: Bob Sokol, West Vancouver director of planning, land development and permits. He was at the sharp end defending some hackles-raising building permits in recent years — the 17,500-square-foot edifice on Kensington Crescent may be dwarfed by an alleged 25,000-square-footer on Mathers.
Town hall director of communications Jeff McDonald dispelled any speculation: “Bob is from the U.S. After eight years in Canada, his wife wished to return there and received an offer of a dream job, so they made the decision to make the move back home.” At this writing his successor hasn’t been identified.
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Couns. Bill Soprovich and Michael Lewis attended a recent free-wheeling informal-ish meeting where Sop, as he’s fondly called, drew attention to council’s defeat of a proposed 15-storey condo at Bellevue and 23rd. Good call, to this observer’s passing eye. Reasons: Design too small at the base, insufficient parking. All for it: Mayor Smith and Coun. Mary-Ann Booth.
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I had fond but doomed hopes of interviewing all federal election candidates in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding. But space and time limitations would have confounded Stephen Hawking.
So, incumbent Conservative John Weston and Liberal former West Vancouver mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones being well known to our readers, today a quick snapshot of Green party candidate Ken Melamed — who, importantly, lives in the 55 per cent of the riding outside of West Vancouver. (You can check all riding candidates at two meetings on Sept. 23: 1 p.m. at Kay Meek Centre for high school students and at 7 p.m., centring on marine issues, at West Vancouver Yacht Club for members.)
Melamed was born in Philadelphia of parents “from the pogroms of Europe” and grew up, fluently bilingual, in Montreal. His father began as an antique dealer. Both father and mother — who returned to school after her education was interrupted to bring up a family (she got a PhD from famed uber-liberal Antioch College) — became college teachers, one of Canada’s spectacular and too little recognized immigrant success stories.
Ken Melamed went as far as Quebec’s CEGEP, roughly equivalent to first-year university. He liked — still likes — building, working with his hands.
He served five terms on Whistler council, two as mayor.
He left the New Democrats on an issue of principle and joined the Greens. On the riding’s most contentious issue, the Squamish LNG plant, he says: “I go with the residents.”
Putting politics aside, he’s one of those extraordinary ordinary people, quietly impressive, short of stature, modest of manner, thankfully lacking the hearty, beaming salesmanship and predatory mien of too many politicians. Worth a look.
© Trevor Lautens, 2015