LETTER Blurring of the vision

Graham Kenyon
By Graham Kenyon
October 4th, 2010

There was some earlier discussion of televising Council meetings up here in the Mountain Kingdom. Having attended a few, I don’t think other reality shows like Survivor and the Dragons Den need worry about their ratings, though I suspect there are occasions when the opportunity to vote someone off the island would be a welcome alternative to four hour marathons. And I sometimes wonder whether the supplicants attending Council meetings in support of their development projects wouldn’t sooner be pitching their ideas to the skeptics in the Dragons Den.

Which, oddly enough, brings me to my topic: Rossland Council’s decision to reject the St Paul Street duplex application, reported on a couple of weeks ago it has bothered me ever since. One routine decision on a zoning change might not seem like much, but I think it is significant as a reflection of Council’s commitment to the sustainability principles espoused in the Strategic Sustainability Plan, which was so enthusiastically endorsed a couple of years ago. 

The proposal was to build a duplex dwelling on a vacant corner lot currently zoned for a single family residence. The duplex structure was designed to fit within the envelope of a normal single family home. The selling price is lower mid-range and relatively affordable these days. It would appear to be an ideal fit with the City’s key sustainability criteria of infill and densification – two families in the footprint of one; two new tax payers with no increase in service infrastructure. Ideal; except for the delegation of neighbours with their concerns over safety and winter access issues. 

There is a temptation to write this off as the inevitable NIMBY syndrome. Who was it that paraphrased Shakespeare’s infamous quote from Henry VI, originally directed at lawyers: ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the neighbours.’? Neighbours, please note that Shakespeare actually intended that as a compliment to lawyers, since the character quoted was a devious individual intent on subverting the law. Neighbours do indeed have a unique insight, they provide valuable input and their views deserve careful consideration, notwithstanding the innate aversion of some to change.   My dismay in this case is that, when confronted by local opinion, the application was rejected outright, without the opportunity for further exploration of how those issues and concerns might be addressed. So much for the long term vision. We will never achieve that vision by continuing to do things in the same old way.    

Infill and densification inevitably affect the status quo in neighbourhoods. There will always be issues and concerns. But, with positive determination, reasonable solutions can generally be found for rational objections. Council must exhibit, through their actions as well as their words, that this is a paramount principle in developing a sustainable community. Given the City’s predominantly residential tax base this is also one of the few options we have to dilute and hence reduce our extraordinary high taxes, itself a critical sustainability factor for the future of Rossland. Are you in, or are you out?     Graham Kenyon

Categories: Letters

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