Message from Sandy, Lindsay, Ian & VNV to supporters following the Development Board hearing on December 16, 2013
Many among us felt enormous disappointment at the conditional approval of the preliminary development permit on December 16.
The applicants have approval to proceed contingent upon developing a harm reduction plan in consultation with the Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical officer, with reference to the Kendall report, Lower the Stakes.
The down-side is that a massive casino floor has been approved, despite very strong community objection. This is extremely troubling. In November 2011 Council re-zoned the BC Place site to permit a casino. For reasons that are obscure, rezoning was permitted for the square footage requested in the original proposal–or 114,000 square feet–notwithstanding that Council rejected additional slot machines.
Industry standard for a purpose-built casino is roughly 52 square feet per slot machine, or about 31,000 square feet for Edgewater, so re-zoning to permit 114,000 sq. ft was an unusual step.
In any event, Paragon applied for and got approval for a 71,000 sf casino floor space–40,000 sq ft larger than necessary.
Given the cost of land and cost of construction in downtown Vancouver, it’s not credible that an experienced commercial real estate partner would commit half a billion dollars to a project that’s more than 100% overbuilt.
In our view someone with authority has committed to these investors that more slots WILL be permitted, and that is most likely the provincial government, which always has the power to amend the legislation requiring municipal approval for additional slots.
Since we assume the provincial government will pursue more slots, while Vancouver City Council is in principal steadfastly opposed (and 2014 is an election year), our focus is firmly on those aspects of this development which fall under exclusive municipal jurisdiction.
We are encouraged by the mayor’s statement on the morning following the DPB hearing that:
Given (the) public concerns…which were raised at today’s Development Permit Board meeting, I will ask City staff to identify further measures to prevent any expansion of gambling in the future on this site, including amendments to by-laws or the Northeast False Creek Official Development Plan that will restrict the allowable casino floor space to the existing proposal.
This measure opens the door for us to take a more aggressive position to curtail this development. The Kendall Report, which chronicles an alarming increase in gambling addiction following the widespread introduction of slots in BC, has indeed been a game-changer for this project.
Our focus now shifts to two issues: pressing this Council to follow through with its commitment to permanently prevent expansion of the casino, and supporting strong and robust conclusions by the Vancouver Public Health Officer respecting harm reduction measures for the casino.
We will seek, among other steps:
• A covenant by the applicant not to increase slots and tables as a condition of its final development permit
• Restriction of operating hours
• Implementation of Kendall recommendations respecting alcohol service and ATMs
• Public health review of casino operations and data gathering methods
The Mayor’s statement is a tribute to your persuasive arguments. Your dedication, commitment, energy and support keep alive the possibility that this project will never materialize in the form sought by the applicants.
We’ll be in touch as events unfold.
Sandy Garossino, Lindsay Brown, Ian Pitfield