Robbins SCE Research
Home| British Columbia Polls| Canada Polls| US & the World Polls| Contact| Register| Search| Donate
Coquitlam city council's 'green plan' OK's The Cutting of 16000 Plus trees
Coquitlam's Burke Mt. Development Debacle Exposes Development Sham  Feb 07, 2008

How We Got Here
A recent vote over the Low Impact Development strategy for Burke Mountain in Coquitlam is a prime example of why homeowners have lost so much confidence in local elected officials.
Two local Liberal city councillors, Lou Sekora and Richard Stewart, both with historical ties to developers, were catalysts in a subversive move to undo tens of thousands of dollars of city staff work and research, designed specifically to create a new type of sustainable development project on Burke Mountain.
The new development is headed up by Wesbild who was also the developer of more upscale homes on Westwood Plateau.
Built on a mountain site, Westwood Plateau has been the source of dozens, if not hundreds of homes experiencing flood problems brought on by the reliance of 'big pipe' water drainage strategies which have not been successful, coupled with changing runoffs which created terrible problems for homeowners where previously there was none.
Former Mayor and now city councillor Lou Sekora, who was also a former Liberal Party Member of Parliament had close ties to Wesbild, and if there were not financial ties specifically to Wesbild, Mr. Sekora certainly has had issues with money and developers before in his political career. "During his re-election campaign in 1996, Coquitlam mayor (now Liberal MP) Lou Sekora appears to have made highly irregular expense claims, according to invoices and receipts obtained under FOI by a group of political opponents, who filed the documents in a court action seeking to overturn Sekora's election win. Sekora had co-mingled donations with his own personal expenses, altered records, claimed one sign expense four different times, "sold" himself old election signs from 1993, and claimed he raised $3,660.97 at a restaurant fundraiser but didn't record any of the donors' names, (as required by municipal law), according to documents filed in court. Unlike most municipal politicians, Sekora had acted as his own financial agent; he denied any intent to mislead, and just called himself a bad bookkeeper. ("Sekora falsified expenses, opponents claim," by Jeff Lee, The Vancouver Sun, April 1, 1998)" City counillor Sekora was also involved in another controversy involving personal loans made to him by another developer who was never paid back. Obviously a politician with a shaky past. What role if any does this dubious past play in Mr. Sekora's decision to sponsor and vote against sustainable development on Burke Mountain with his old friends at Wesbild (who have difficulty even keeping up with lawn cutting at Westwood Plateau, something which I understand is their responsibility)?
Richard Stewart, another developer's friend with close ties to federal Liberals, and as a former BC Liberal, also had close ties to developers. Mr. Stewart was involved with the development side on the leaky condo crisis (which was never satisfactorily resolved). He also had close political ties to former Coquitlam Mayor Jon Kingsbury, himself a former developer, who in turn has close ties to the Lochhead family, and specifically Craig and Marion Lochhead who are the developer and real estate agent behind the Riverbend townhouse swindle, where buyers have had their contracts cancelled and the government has had to step in to stop any further sale of the properties, which are also the subject of litigation.
Mr. Stewart is also a driving force behind the 'Coquitlam First' organization, which ran a slate of candidates in the most recent Coquitlam election for Mayor and city councillors.
On that slate were two of Richard Stewart's close friends, former Coquitlam Mayor Jon Kingsbury, and disgraced realtor/developer Marion Lochhead. The Coquitlam First group failed to disclose any of their donations, and despite complaints from Solicitor General critic, local Burke Mountain MLA Mike Farnworth, Richard Stewart has steadfastly refused to disclose who his donors were. This lack of disclosure in conjunction with the obvious credibility problems his partners in Coquitlam First (like Marion Lochhead) are experiencing, have placed Richard Stewart in an awkward position. Many ask "Is this guy honest, can we trust him?" Most in the know believe that Richard Stewart's successful run for a municipal council seat was fueled by development dollars, which brings into question both the sponsorship and support of the most recent Progressive Construction 'Notice of Motion' to remove Coquitlam city staff's exemplary plan for Low Impact Development strategies and technoligies for the Burke Mountain region.
It should be noted that a minor player on Burke Mountain, Progressive Construction is owned by Milan Ilich of Richmond British Columbia, who is a long time significant donor to the BC Liberals and close 'friend' of Premier Gordon Campbell (hereinafter 'Sam's boss') and city councillor Richard Stewart. Mr. Ilich is also the father of BC Liberal Labour Minister Olga Ilich (amendment: daughter/relative we are unsure-some blood work may be needed). Is Olga Ilich a friend of CUPE or will she follow her epistomological predilictions and simply do as she is told?
How is it that a developer from Richmond is able to have such influence over the future of sustainable development in Coquitlam, an area of the lower mainland necessary for the necessary increase in housing in the region, is something that will not sit well with Coquitlam homeowners and voters in the region, who will not want their tax dollars wasted further when city hall eventually (through class action lawsuits etc.) is compelled to pay out millions in damage claims. Where will the developers be? Off on easy street. Coquitlam City Hall will eventually be forced to pay multiple millions in damages to homeowners whose houses WILL flood and whose regional development will become known as a grotesque clear cut and environmental eyesore, owing to the ability of two city councillors (and their confederates dumb and dumber), obviously developer's friends, who have thwarted the hard work and efforts of Coquitlam city staff, and who are trying to do the right thing for the region, the citizens of Coquitlam, and for the GVRD generally.
Let's provide some background into this potential environmental travesty.
Lara Gerrits of Coquitlam's The Tri-City News, provides us with some background: May 11 2007 "Coquitlam council’s move to put a lid on its LID policy for development in northeast Coquitlam is receiving mixed reviews. Council made the controversial decision Monday to halt the Low Impact Development policy, which aims for environmentally-savvy water management as part of development, until its measures can be further studied, as suggested in a notice of motion by Coun. Lou Sekora. The LID policy, introduced in 2005, required certain features for new northeast development, including ditches, permeable pavers and amended top soils, and was originally touted as a contributing factor to Burke Mountain development’s sustainability. But Sekora, as well as four other councillors and members of the development community, expressed concerns that LID’s benefits are unproved and its costs high. “I think the notice of motion that passed gives the opportunity for some analysis and some reflection of the true efficiency and cost in some of these measures,” said Ted Ayerst, vice-president of Wesbild Holdings Ltd., a major Burke Mountain developer. “They were implemented in a bit of haste, I think,” he said. “They were good ideas but they don’t work on a forested mountainside here, necessarily.” But Burke Mountain Naturalists president Ian McArthur disagreed. “We would have actually liked something stronger but we compromised to something lower, and now even that’s gone,” he said. “The city put a lot of money into bringing all of these people together and holding meetings and things like that, and that’s all basically a waste.” McArthur, along with several other stakeholders, participated in an advisory committee helping develop the Hyde Creek Integrated Watershed Management Plan, from which the LID policy came. “It’s quite frustrating for us that we sat on this committee for two years and now it’s basically been thrown out,” he said. But Northeast Coquitlam Ratepayers’ Association secretary Clara Brolese, who also sat on the advisory committee, said she’s happy LID has been halted. Calling the policy costly and “intrusive to people’s lives,” she said nixing it for now was a good decision because when it was first drafted, people didn’t understand its impacts. “There were some real concerns about the cost of the installations, their efficacy and, in particular, about the requirements that there be restrictive covenants on all of these things, which would pass from the developer to the builder to every subsequent owner of that property,” Brolese said. “How do you monitor that? It would be an enormous undertaking.” Coun. Fin Donnelly, the only councillor in support of maintaining the status quo policy, said LID is needed to preserve the Burke Mountain ecosystem while those councillors who didn’t want it abolished altogether thought amending it would help calm concerns. Development in northern Coquitlam was rapidly increased during the early 1990s, after the sale of 650 hectares (1600 acres) of crown land to Wesbild consisting of 4000 single family lots, 700 townhouse sites, and 400 apartment unit sites. This steep mountainside, covered in second-growth forest, is the area now known as Westwood Plateau. The development of this area, as originally planned in 1987, is nearly complete. Urban development will soon be shifting to the northeastern portion of the city, now that the long-planned-for link across the Coquitlam River at David Avenue finally connects the two halves of Coquitlam."
Let's have a look at some of the things promised by Wesbild in order to get their 'foot in the door' on the Burke Mountain developement. We ask you the reader if these folks are acting in good or bad faith with respect to sustainable development in the region, and specifically with Burke Mountain.
In Wesbild's very expensive draft material for their Burke Mountain development proposal entitled BURKE MOUNTAIN Share the Vision/Shape your Future this is what Wesbild had to say/promise. Obviously something that they no longer intend to keep!
"This document outlines Wesbild's commitment to the principles and community values that emerged from this work (Coquitlam city staff/CUPE), now ENSHRINED in the NORTHEAST COQUITLAM AREA PLAN (NECAP). Wesbild is proud to be a participant in the process of managed change that is envisaged by this community plan, and we are COMMITTED to making it happen, honoring the spirit of the community plan, one careful step at a time."
"As we move forward with the first neighbourhood we will translate into reality the principles and values of the Northeast Coquitlam area plan. NECAP HAS SET A HIGH BAR OF COMMUNITY ASPIRATIONS."
More from Wesbild: "At 1,200 metres, Burke Mountain forms the northernmost limits of urbanization and is a distinctive visible presence in the community. With it's magnificent forested setting and mix of provincial, regional and local parks, Burke Mountain has long provided residents of Coquitlam with outstanding recreational opportunties...Burke Mountain is a Coquitlam commonwealth-a shared community asset of parks, trails, forests and streams. These assets contribute significantly to Coquitlam's quality of life and the active lifestyle of local residents. With future development, these natural assets will be protected and nurtured."
And here we have Wesbild's apparent recognition of the sensitivity of the Burke Mountain ecosystem:
Wesbild: "Down the slopes (Burke Mountain) flow a myriad of creeks. These natural channels are among the basic organizing elements of the landscape of Burke Mountain." The nature of Burke Mountain will directly inform the planning of the new community."
I said, "Pardon"?
"The proposed land use plan carefully balances the patterns of the natural environment with appropriate forms of urban settlement."
According to the Wesbild presentation material: "NECAP forms part of Coquitlam's Citywide Official Community Plan"..which provides a broad framework for guiding future land use..."
..."The community plan for Northeast Coquitlam represents the collective, aspirations, priorities, and values of the community it is intended to serve. It also represents an investment in an engaged, democratic decision-making process and as such it is owned by the residents of northeast Coquitlam."
"The Burke Mountain community plan confirms the protection of most of the northeast Coquitlam land area including green zones, provincial and regional parks, agricultural lands, and all ravines, creeks and watercourses.
"Wesbild is one of several land owners in the area, along with other private companies, individuals, and the City (of Coquitlam) itself."
"Wesbild wholly endorses the Northeast Coquitlam Area Plan and, together with the Coquitlam community, is fully committed to implementing its key principles one careful step at a time."
..."The first Neighbourhood Plan will be one of pioneering TANGIBLE _EXPRESSIONS OF THE NEW COMMUNITY--A PLAN THAT ARTICULATES THE ASPIRATIONS AND VALUES OF THE RESIDENTS OF COQUITLAM.
From Wesbild: "GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE NORTHEAST COQUITLAM AREA PLAN"
"Development will be limited to the base of Burke Mountain. Most of northeast Coquitlam will remain undeveloped with no development in any designated parks, nature reserves, or agricultural lands."
"Burke Mountain will complement nature, not replace it. Areas of high environmental sensitivity will be integrated into the development plan, such as creeks, steep slopes and ravines, wildlife corridors and significant forested areas."
"THESE PRINCIPLES FORM THE FOUNDATION OF WESBILD'S APPROACH TO DEVELOPING ITS FIRST DETAILED NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN."
FIRST? I SAID, "PARDON"?
Wesbild claims that their plan is: "Inspired by Nature-Protecting the Environment"
"Protection of areas of high environmental sensitivity"
Wesbild acknowledges: "Through the Northeast Coquitlam Area Plan, the people of Coquitlam have placed a very high value on preserving and enhancing the natural environment of Burke Mountain. With its numerous flowing creeks, forested slopes, wetlands and wildlife habitat areas, Burke Mountain is unique ecology."
"Wesbild has been inspired by this rich natural ecology in our community planning. From the beginning, our approach has been to integrate nature into our new development, and to develop green infrastructure that will enhance the environment and minimize environmental impacts."
Further pledges from Wesbild:
Wesbild WILL: Protect (sic) natural corridors along all watercourses
Wesbild WILL: Remediate (sic) disturbed watercourse corridors to provide enhanced habitat.
Wesbild WILL: Integrate stormwater detention and stream corridor protection, through the provision of several stormwater detention ponds along key stream corridors.
Wesbild WILL: Preserve (sic) significant clusters of mature trees.
Wesbild WILL: Create (sic) an interconnected network of natural corridors and parks to enhance fish and wildlife movement.
Wesbild WILL: Limit (sic) public access in environmentally sensitive riparian corridor areas to carefully sited...low impact trails."
Wesbild WILL: Use (sic) public open spaces such as parks, sports fields, and school yards for stormwater catchment, detention, and filtration.
Many of Wesbild's promises can be accomplished according to their written materials by:
"Enhancing groundwater infiltration by methods such as directing residual roof and parimeter drain water into individual rock pits."
Furthermore, as part of enacting a sense of empathy and good faith with the citizens of Coquitlam, and the good staff at Coquitlam city hall, Wesbild pledges:
"In responding to this key community plan principle, Wesbild will establish a high standard of environmental stewardship in Burke Mountain. We are committed to meeting or exceeding that standard in all subsequent neighbourhood plans, helping create a Burke Mountain community in balance with nature.
I said, "Pardon"?
Wesbild seems to acknowledge the Low Impact Development strategies devised by Coquitlam city staff when it states in its original draft proposal:
"The proposed mix of housing reflects the desire for a more compact area TO MINIMIZE IMPACTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT..."
Wesbild's proposal concludes:
"We invite you to get involved, to help shape the vision, to become a champion for the things that matter most to you about Burke Mountain. We are committed to an open engaged consultative process."
Let me provide a little background about LID programs which are progressing around North America, particularly in the United States, where entire buildings (impervious structures) are being retrofit for LID strategies, while it is apparent that one of the last viable areas for proper low impact development in the lower mainland has been co-opted by a couple of sweaty friends of developers on Coquitlam's city council (with the help of the dumb and dumber 'twins').
What is LID?
"LID" is an acronym which represents a sustainable landscaping approach "that can be used to replicate or restore natural watershed functions and/or address targeted watershed goals and objectives." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
In the United States, the EPA"s Office of Water and Office of Administration and Resources Management in conjunction with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) are "demonstrating low impact development and sustainable stormwater management practices in a multi-year, multi-phased LID program at the Federal Triangle Headquarters campus in Washington DC."
According to the US Environmental Agency, "it is hoped that the LID program will reduce the volume, discharge rate, and pollution levels of its stormwater run-off, but also demonstrate that sustainable design and LID can be used in high profile, urban sites with rigorous aesthetic design requirements."
Now consider this when thinking about Burke Mountain:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is using this (LID) project to demonstrate that sustainable design and LID can be utilized in high profile urban sites that must pass through rigorous aesthetic design reviews.
Low Impact Strategies being used on the Federal Triangle Headquarters in Washington DC is a task involving a structure which is 95% IMPERVIOUS TO RAIN.
Some of the LID strategies being used on this building and other government buildings around the United States are:
Bioretention cells, Permeable Concrete, Permeable Pavers, Cisterns, Sustainable landscaping and Recycled Content Materials which are expected to:
Reduce the volume and peak runoff of stormwater.
Demonstrate the feasibility and cost effectiveness of using innovative stormwater mangement techniques for urban stormwater management retrofits.
Demonstrate the cost and effectiveness of urban retrofits.
According to the Whole Building Design Guide in Washington DC, and specifically author and expert Anne Guillette and pursuant to Executive Order 13423 entitled "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation Management.".. the new "EO" raises the bar for federal leadership and performance in several areas-"
Stormwater is defined by the EPA as "rainwater and melted snow that runs off streets, lawns, homes and construction and industrial sites." Under natural conditions stormwater is absorbed into the ground, here it is filtered and ultimately replenishes aquifers, or slowly flows through forests into streams and rivers.
"THE PROBLEM IN DEVELOPED AREAS IS THAT PAVEMENT AND BUILDING ROOFS PREVENT PRECIPITATION FROM NATURALLY ENTERING THE SOIL, AND BOTH THE QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF THAT STORMWATER CAN AFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT."
"While stormdrains and sewers can capture rain that falls on these impervious surfaces, they also accelerate the flow of rainwater, causing stream bank erosion and flooding."
"Stormwater runoff is the most common cause of water pollution as a consequence of accumulation of fertilizers, dirt, pesticides, oil, grease and many other pollutants along the way."
"At the United States Federal Triangle Headquarters complex project in Washington DC, they are "incorporating strategies to demonstrate reduction of the peak volume and pollutant load of its stormwater runoff and serve as a model for future LID projects in the DC metropolitan area and nationwide."
The Executive Order for the LID program in Washington DC "requires agencies to reduce greenhouse gases through a reduction in energy intensity of 3% a year or 30% by the end of fiscal 2015."
The key to the success of the LID program and strategy controls is that they work as a "decentralized system that distributes storm water across a project site in order to replenish groundwater supplies RATHER THAN SENDING IT INTO A SYSTEM OF STORM DRAIN PIPES AND CHANNELIZED NETWORKS THAT CONTROL WATER DOWNSTREAM IN A LARGE STORM WATER MANAGEMENT FACILITY."
The LID approach differs from conventional, convergence systems as it promotes the highest and best use of instrinsic land form and built structure to both distribute storm water and collect rainwater. The uniqueness of LID is the interaction and function of water on a site. It capitalizes on the integration of infrastructure, architecture, and landscape in order to create a balanced, hydrologically functional and sustainable site."
THE LID APPROACH HANDLES WATER LIKE A VALUABLE AND VIABLE RESOURCE THAT IT IS."
2007, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF Building Science.
Now where does Canada and specifically British Columbia fit in this discussion?
"In October 2006 Municipal representatives from communities throughout Alberta attended a workship held by Alberta Low Impact Development Partnerships.
"A conference on Low Impact Development strategies in Cochrane Alberta as part of its "outreach and continuing education program. The workshop program was DEVELOPED AND DELIVERED IN COLLABORATION WITH BRITISH COLUMBIA'S WATER BALANCE MODEL PARTNERSHIP."
I SAID, "PARDON?"
On Friday, 13th of April, Progressive Construction Ltd. contacted the Mayor and city council to "stay (get rid of) certain Low Impact Development (LID) measures until these measures can be proven to add a tangible and practical benefit to storm water management."
"We are concerned about designing and constructing measures that are either inherently designed to fail and/or put in place to simply provide very marginal benefits."
Progressive Construction Ltd. of 5591 No 3 Road in Richmond BC calls the LID strategy offered by the City of Coquitlam ..."a waste of money...."
Now readers, remember I told you that Progressive Construction was owned by a BC Liberal supporter, Mr. Milan Ilich, whose daughter is Olga Ilich a Cabinet Minister with the BC Liberal government, specifically Minister of Labour.
Bear in mind that 80-90% of recommendations provided by city staff are affirmed by Mayor and City Staff. Bear in mind former Coquitlam Mayor Jon Kingsbury told ROBBINS "that CUPE was the problem with city hall."
Bear in mind that Jon Kingsbury is a federal and provincial Liberal who is also a developer, and who is also tied to city councillor and former BC Liberal Richard Stewart (friend of developers), and both of these are tied to the controversial municipal election Team called Coquitlam First, who evaded donation scrutiny relating to the most current civic elections in Coquitlam.
I would ask the Prime Minister of Canada why he wouldn't encourage the development of these models of environmental sustainability to show how Canadians can make progress at home?
If federal Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion is so concerned about the environment, than why wouldn't he contact his good friends and Liberal supporters Coquitlam city councillors Richard Stewart and Lou Sekora to admonish them with respect to their support of abandoning the LID program for Burke Mountain?
For city councillor Lou Sekora to suggest that the LID program is "unproven" and should thus be swept away entirely is unbelievably stupid, when we consider that billions of dollars are being invested in the free world, and on buildings in the Capital of the United States which are 95% impervious, and we here in Coquitlam, BC Canada are reluctant to construct a model on a natural mountain where the issues relating to stormwater, runoff and pollution are paramount.
Are Richard Stewart and Lou Sekora, two politicians with ties to developers (some proven to be dirty) acting as proxy agents for those developers, or are they acting in the genuine best interests of the community?
This raises a few questions for any reasonable person. If Wesbild is so intent on acting in good faith pursuant to the city plan for that area, and in good faith with its promise to the citizens of Coquitlam, why doesn't it come out and fight for LID? Or was it the plan all along to pretend to be in support of these progressive steps, only to use a proxy (another land owner) like Progressive Developments who filed the Notice of Motion, but was not party to the initial promises?
It would appear that Wesbild and its associates went into negotiations with the City based possibly on bad faith. Yet, Wesbild would have you believe that it wasn't it that prepared and advanced the Notice of Motion to Coquitlam city hall to banish the important LID program which city staff had spent countless hours preparing, and which ONLY city councillor Fin Donnelly (the next Mayor according to me) had the fortitude to move forward with the plan as promised.
I said, "Pardon?"
Van Rassel rules private property at Burke Mountain-fresh water guardian?
Fresh water first
Letter
Published: Monday, November 26, 2007
-30-
Jim Van Rassel
I'm giving some consideration to running for Mayor of Coquitlam Nov 2008 to fix this problem and many others.
Jim Van Rassel is a small businessman in Tri-City, B.C. He is also a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. Mr. Van Rassel owns a rural piece of property in the area of Burke Mountain, which is the subject of some compelling research on this site (see Burke Mountain). Mr. Van Rassel as noted in his letter has a drilled water well, and is able to access subterranean water flows for his household use. Mr. Van Rassel is also able to measure the water quality of flows coming off the Burke Mountain, and is currently testing the fresh water in his well on a regular basis. Developers, and city planners will now have to consider Mr. Van Rassel a private citizen owning private property, as they move forward with development. Fresh water IS fast becoming a scarce resource throughout the world.
The Vancouver Province 2007
Jim Van Rassel, Coquitlam
I hope our diminishing fresh water supply will take precedence over the mighty development dollar.
Our family is still learning about looking after our land and assessing what we put on it -- because that affects us directly and possibly our neighbours, too.
With clean water becoming more and more scarce, what if this development hurts that water supply? It has been reported lately that water wells in the Fraser Valley have become contaminated. Is there a connection between development and this phenomenon? Probably.
But over the next decade, Burke Mountain in Coquitlam will be developed in a big way.
My family's water supply comes from a drilled well and is fantastic in both quality and abundance.

Home| British Columbia Polls| Canada Polls| US and the World Polls| Contact| Register| Search| Site Map
Copyright Robbins SCE Research Inc. ©2017