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Is city hall in Port Moody and Rocky Pointe restaurant development in trouble?
  Jul 20, 2006

Commentary
Tri-City News Coquitlam Now
Re: Restaurant at Rocky Pointe Park.
I am writing with respect to the above captioned to both newspapers, as this issue has been covered well in both and naturally is of some significance. Ms. Sarah Young’s report in the Tri-City News of July 2, 2006 is a good point from which to begin.
Ms. Young reports that at a Port Moody council meeting relating to debate over the Boathouse at Rocky Pointe Park that “many wondered why the Boathouse was no longer overhanging the mud flats area, leaving the parking lot intact-protecting the views, easing traffic and ensuring vehicle and pedestrian safety.” According to this independent reporter there are many citizens who are questioning the process as is. This tells us at a minimum that there is some verifiable independent reporting that ‘something may not be right with the process’.
Conservative MP James Moore (Port Moody/Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam) has jurisdiction because of the DFO a federal agency, which plays a role in the process. DFO’s involvement was not conspicuous at the original time an agreement was reached to permit a restaurant at Rocky Pointe Park, however Port Moody city manager Gaeten Royer confirms, “and applying to the DFO and other agencies is the developer’s responsibility, not the city.” Mr. Royer’s comment is telling, as it provides insight into what the developer’s responsibilities were (are). Is it possible that the developer may not have conducted proper due diligence? Whether or not this removes the city from responsibility for a lack of due diligence is another subject. The thrust of this is confirmed by MP James Moore’s position as follows:
“When this issue was first raised I think most people assumed it (the restaurant) would be on pilings, I know that was my assumption. Now it’s going to be in the middle of the parking lot because of DFO regulations. I’ve been an MP here for six years, not once has the city ever called me to go to bat on behalf of the city to have DFO relax the setbacks.”
Mr. Moore indicates that no-one has contacted him when it was proper protocol to do so, because of the interest DFO had in the location of the proposed restaurant. Mr. Moore also testifies to the fact that the restaurant’s location as initially planned was to be on pilings and not as it is presently being contemplated, which presumably has lead to some of the citizen’s discontent.
Port Moody Mayor Trasolini contributes little to the debate when he responds (to Mr. Moore), “I hope you come to one of our council meetings in the future and learn more about us.”
This response plus other city councilor responses relating to liability issues really have no place in a process involving the citizens because they are substantially irrelevant and non-responsive. Former Port Moody city councillor Cynthia Van Ginkel asserts that a restaurant has been part of the city planning for some time. Is Ms Van Ginkel suggesting that the Boathouse restaurant ‘winning the bid’ to develop the restaurant was pre-ordained when she was on council, or is she saying that any restaurant was part of the planning. Further, is former city councillor Ms. Van Ginkel also suggesting that the original plan called for the restaurant’s placement as it is precisely now, or did that plan call for a restaurant at a different location at the park (hereinafter “the original location”), which would advance the argument of the critics of the present location of the restaurant.
The reason the restaurant isn’t going to be on pilings is because this is likely too expensive for the developer. The developer must have known this from the beginning. What is more important however is that the circumstances relating to the construction of the restaurant has changed materially, without any valid evidence that the public was properly consulted in timely fashion on the change in the circumstances.
If people are expected to endorse an altered set of circumstances (in this case the development of a Boathouse restaurant at Rocky Pointe Park), based on the fear of litigation than it is likely fair comment that Port Moody city council is ‘out of control’ as one critic of the process has suggested. Taking political action, or extolling a particular course of action predicated on fear of a jurisdiction (the courts) unrelated to due process at the political level in Port Moody, would confer (ostensibly) de facto control of the political process in Port Moody with lawyers and the courts, and as such would support to some extent the aforementioned criticism leveled at Mayor and council.
In any contract, any material condition which is altered by either party(s) to that agreement opens up that entire agreement, or major aspects of the agreement, to other changes (negotiation) by any of the party(s) involved. I say this after noting that city officials have also indicated that a better arrangement for revenues from the restaurant was also structured, AFTER the agreement was changed, and the opportunity for further consultation with the public was undertaken. City council is expected to conduct itself in the interests of the people, with a view to scarce resources, not in its own self interest with only a partial view to the interests of the citizens as appears to be the case in Port Moody presently.
Wouldn’t a cynical person be led to believe that perhaps this entire change to the agreement involving the restaurant was pre-ordained some time ago as Mr. Moore’s insight implies, and the public was not properly appraised in timely fashion owing to the concerns which would ultimately be raised by the public, as they are now. This suggests that primarily the Boathouse restaurant and Port Moody city staff and presumably city council were the main parties to the significant alternations to the circumstances relating to the original agreement, but the public was not, or at least not sufficiently. This is likely the fundamental reason for the criticisms leveled at the process generally and the elected officials specifically.
It is my opinion that once the material circumstances (particularly as this relates to the location of the restaurant and the impact on other users of the park, and the public interest changes), than the entire debate should be re-opened right now, lest the politicians be accused of crass political manipulation or ‘inching' intended to push a deal through which may benefit the developer and perhaps the city coffers only, with the utility and efficacy of those revenues in some serious question. However without the proper consultation with the public, as this relates to the material changes from the original agreement to the present one, the entire process now compromises proper political accountability.
It would seem that given the criticisms of the process leveled by at least 3 city councillors, the entire process should be re-opened and a fresh step should be taken.
There is no doubt that the defenders of the deal on city council are defensive as witnessed by emotional responses, or shaming, or censure of those citizens who would criticize the events. As a watcher of the political process I can say without equivocation that when politicians move off the central core of a debate and move into a purely defensive mode, it is, on balance of probability a likely sign that they have failed somewhere in their duty of care.
Once the location of the restaurant changes, or the nature of the development is altered from that which was materially presented to city council and allegedly to the public as well, than the city owes a duty to the public to put the new arrangement before the people, without the additional duress of 11th hour histrionics of members of city council who may feel guilty because they have been ‘caught’.
This issue needs to go before the public again with the new conditions put before the public not during the peak of summer but at a time when all the citizens of Port Moody can have proper input. There is certainly enough information available from credible reporting and from comments from the federal Member of Parliament that there are pieces missing in this process. Further, no responsible elected official would ever attempt to ram home an altered deal with the overarching threat of litigation.
When 25% of eligible voters cast their vote in a municipal election they are saying something about their confidence or their interest in local government generally. This should not be construed as an invitation by elected officials to make fundamental changes to the city parks without fair and complete accountability of the public process, which appears to be occurring in Port Moody presently.
Glen P. Robbins (604) 942-3757

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