Coun. Denis Walsh will propose a motion today that City council “impose a covenant on (the) proposed Lorne Street parkade restricting building any structure on top of the two-level parkade that would interfere with the view of the park from Lorne Street. . . .”
The motion will be soundly defeated, with little debate.
Then, he’ll propose instead, that council direct David Trawin, the director of development and engineering services, to bring in a plan that will make it impossible to build a third level.
Or, will he?
Before we go further, let’s summarize: On the suggestion of Mayor Peter Milobar, council approved by majority vote on May 3 amending the parkade plan to only two levels instead of three. After Trawin then mused that it would make sense to built it so it could accommodate a third level sometime in the future, Walsh gave notice of motion as above.
That’s the proposal that Coun. Pat Wallace has somewhat unkindly characterized as “window dressing.”
It’s true a covenant wouldn’t be binding for all time on future councils, but there’s an elephant in the room this council has so far declined to address: a permanent way of resolving the two- versus three-storeys issue is to design a parkade that is structurally incapable of accepting an additional storey.
In order to make a third level possible, the footings of the structure have to be upgraded, a move Trawin estimates will cost an additional $300,000 up front.
Trawin is going on the assumption that awarding the engineering design contract to Stantec Architecture — as he is recommending today — is based on providing for a possible future third storey, unless council directs otherwise.
When I asked him about this Monday, Walsh said he will suggest a design restriction when he speaks today, adding wryly, “I just think that’s going to be as well accepted as my covenant.”
But here’s the thing. Trawin’s recommendation on the contract for engineering design comes up before Walsh’s notice of motion on the covenant.
That doesn’t prevent Walsh from proposing an amendment to Trawin’s recommendation so that Stantec is directed to come up with a design accommodating only two levels.
It’s a bit awkward to do that before his notice of motion comes forward, though. It would make more sense to debate both possibilities together.
Corporate administrator Len Hyrcan confirms that the order of business in council agendas is set via a procedural bylaw. That order can be altered by a majority vote of council for any particular meeting.
So, Walsh could propose at the beginning of the meeting that his covenant be debated and voted on before Trawin’s report.
Of course, given council’s seeming disinterest in Walsh’s ideas on the matter, they’d probably reject that, too.
In hindsight, the covenant has muddied the issue and provided most of council with an out. If, instead of a covenant, Walsh had proposed from the start a structural design limitation on height, council would have had a tougher time saying no.
At this point, Walsh’s best strategy might be to announce at the start of the meeting, under “Approval of agenda,” that he’s withdrawing his notice of motion.
Then he could focus the debate on the engineering contract and let his fellow councillors explain why they insist on designing a parkade that can, at some point in the future, block the view they say they’re so concerned about preserving.