Whether White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin likes it or not, it seems evident thus far that his interpretation of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy is his alone.
Baldwin has rigorously and publicly averred that being signed on to Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy means White Rock is legally bound to live up to its share of growth forecasts – an estimated one million more people in Metro Vancouver by the year 2041, for which White Rock would provide 4,000 dwelling units for some 7,000 of them. The problem is that few share his unwavering belief that RGS forecasts are legally binding – or that they came down from the mountain with Moses.
Certainly not Metro Vancouver itself, whose senior regional planner Terry Hoff confirms that RGS forecasts are “guidelines” – not mandatory directives.
Not residents, who are expressing a concern about a push for more high-density developments in the city – including highrises outside its town centre.
Not the B.C. Supreme Court, which has ruled that Metro cannot dictate land-use management within a municipality.
And not the councillor who chaired the meeting at which council members signed on to the RGS, and who remembers, too – like the city records that resulted – that the forecasts are intended as guidelines, not holy writ.
Yet Baldwin has taken the extraordinary step of writing a letter to the editor of this paper last week to re-assert his interpretation of the RGS as “required by provincial law” – and then, in a followup email this week, to excoriate the aforementioned “dissenting” councillor, insisting that her recall of the meeting she chaired in 2011 is “opportunistic politically.”
This is not the first rumbling we have heard of the mayor’s strong-willed approach, nor of the contempt he has displayed toward those with a “dissenting” view, who may simply disagree with him or remember things differently.
Nobody is questioning that the RGS forecasts are evidence-based and that it is likely that even tiny, overbuilt White Rock – with a current population nearing 20,000 over 5.13 square kilometres – will have to bear some of the weight of a growing region and prepare for some growth.
But it’s clear that an RGS presented as a guideline – rather than inviolable law – offers some room for negotiation and recognition of this seaside city’s unique and limiting characteristics.
Had Baldwin had the facts on his side – even were he now willing to admit an honest mistake – his sticking to his guns on his interpretation might seem admirable. As it is, it suggests something else, entirely.