Appeared in the North Shore News – August 2, 2013
I haven’t seen the term for a long time, and it may be out of fashion. So tell me, dude: Is the term “over a barrel” still widely understood? Like, cool? If it’s still in use: With West Vancouver’s Grosvenor development slogging its way to fruition, here is an early alert to the next big controversy: Park Royal’s proposed twin towers at Marine Drive and Taylor Way. West Van council will be over a barrel on this one.
Flatly, if council should strongly oppose such a development smack on the North Shore’s most traffic-snarled intersection and just a country boy’s apple toss from an artery clogged with the traffic equivalent of cholesterol, Park Royal, meaning the owning Lalji family, can politely pick up its marbles and play elsewhere on its site.
Which would mean a large hit in foregone taxes to West Van, thus hurting property owners and community services.
Why so? Because the towers as planned sit on municipal land and thus under West Van council control. If council stonily rejects adding hundreds of condos in an area where Lions Gate Bridge traffic already moves glacially at peak times – meaning, increasingly, almost any time of day – Park Royal can say thank you for your consideration and build the towers on a part of its South Mall domain leased from the Squamish, where council has no jurisdiction and of course no taxation power whatever.
I believe that dilemma defines the phrase “over a barrel.”
Mayor Mike Smith says council’s refusal of the application for the Marine Drive-Taylor Way site would therefore deny West Van taxes running into six figures a year.
(Note that two councillors, Craig Cameron and Nora Gambioli, opposed the Grosvenor application to build its Official Community Plan-trumping development a short distance to the west, though that may not have set their personal precedents at all.) The Park Royal situation is inherently and permanently quirky. The boundary between West Van municipally controlled land, where the White Spot restaurant currently sits, and the long-lease Squamish land cuts eccentrically through the area, not along streets or natural boundaries. Late councillor Alan Williams once explained it to me in numbing detail, though anyone who grasps the Schleswig-Holstein question, which ate up 20 years of 19th-century European diplomacy and was said by one participant to have been understood by only three men – one was dead, one was mad, and he himself had forgotten the answer – would have little difficulty with it.
Just a little heads-up – a phrase I dislike much more than “over a barrel” – to the political fun and games that may lie ahead.
Catching up: A West Vancouver couple were startled some time ago when a bylaw officer appeared at their door – and on a Sunday at that – to inquire about a licence for their dog.
This coincided with a town hall initiative to promote “responsible pet ownership” by issuing written warnings rather than fines to owners violating the animal bylaws.
The couple were surprised.
First, about the unheralded visit. Second, that it was on a Sunday, raising speculation about overtime pay. Finally, their dog had died two years earlier.
Well, never let it be said that town hall doesn’t stand on guard for thee and me. This visit was not an aberration.
Steve Simmonds, manager of bylaw and licensing services, explained: First, personal visits are a last resort, when letters and calls go unanswered. Second, there is no Sunday overtime pay for officers. (No kidding? What kind of union contract is that?) Finally, town hall wants to be notified about change of address or a dog’s death, needed so that a lost dog when found can be reunited with the owner “as part of our ‘Free Ride Home’ program.”
To recapitulate: A West Van bylaw officer can appear without prior notice at your door on a Sunday to inquire about a licence for your late dog, whose demise you have an obligation and self-interest to have informed town hall staff about.
Who knew? Not I. And is this municipal bureaucracy at something very near to perfection? Eyeball bicycle statistics: Sunday before last, mid-day, in ideal summer weather like nothing in my memory anywhere, I earnestly counted the number of cyclists crossing Burrard Bridge in each direction in the length of time my shamefully fuelthirsty sedan took to cross it. An even dozen.
Then on Dunbar Street in the long sloping stretch between 16th and 41st, which I travel occasionally, where there is a bike lane and one lane for motor vehicles on each side, I counted (I have an interest in counting them carefully) the number of bicycles. The figure equalled the top number I’ve seen on at least 20 occasions. One.
In not-Amsterdam Vancouver, less than a hill of beans.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013