Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Good ideas die at the intersection of pride and ego.

The municipality has released its plan for consultations on the ferry marshalling changes it wants to make in the village.

The plan is very basic...we will take our proposals to business owners one on one and have some Open House meetings where we will answer questions.  It is a typical "tell and sell" strategy, and it's a shame.

There were a number of plans developed on previous years that were far more inclusive designs.  The best set were the Snug Cove concepts prepared in 2010 by JWT Architecture and Planning.  These plans were interesting in a number of ways.  First they were based on a through design process that took into account constraints and precedents and they were co-created with the major stakeholders, including Metro Vancouver and BC Ferries.  They integrated ferry marshalling with village planning so that traffic solutions could be achieved at the same time as improving the village.  The designers chose 16 key design principles, and offered four different solutions that took into account every ferry marshalling study done to that point.  The four options were offered up to the community for review and comment, and the site even walked people through a process for choosing which elements were most important.  I believe that it it came up with four solid designs, only one of which I liked (option A), but I and many others said that we could live with any of the four.  Such was the integrity of the process.

All that needed to happen to put these designs into play was a costing exercise and some policy changes.  Unfortunately we had a new "action oriented" Council elected in 2011 who vowed to have nothing to do with anything the previous Council had engaged in.  In the name of doing something, they commissioned a ferry marshalling design that was not done with any consultation and which missed a number of key constraints.  There is a useful discussion on this option on the forum here, the quality of which survives until Andrew P. starts launching vitriol at Sue Ellen Fast.  You can scroll through that garbage and see some of James Tuer's posts about what went into the concepts and why other plans should be given the same treatment.

in contrast, this new plan was designed in workshops with Councillors, staff and a couple of committees.  There was no public consultation or stakeholder engagement.  The design principles are more of a wish list rather than design constraints and it makes no reference whatsoever to previous plans, to other precedents or to a range of options.  It is not a village improvement plan, but rather a traffic solution.  It is not at all sensitive to the human and natural context.  The analysis on previous plans  goes like this:

"Improvement plans for the Snug Cove Village, the Government Road Corridor, and ferry marshalling improvements have been under discussion in Bowen Island for the past decade. Considerable resources have been expended on exploring options that could be pursued, and in reviewing these options with the community. For a number of reasons, none of these options have ultimately been implemented."

That's it.  

The public Consultation recommendation in the original plan says this:

It is proposed that staff and consultants be directed to hold a Public Open House at which the Government Road Corridor Improvements and ferry marshalling improvements be presented for the community’s information.
That's it.  The fleshing out of that contains no surprises.

So we are about to embark on a five phase development of the Government Road corridor based on a cursory design process, with no stakeholder collaboration, with a financial plan that is based on conservative estimates (of $5.5 million) that don't account for a number of unknowns and that will make irreversible changes to the village with no village planning.  It doesn't take into consideration the overall design of the village at all.  It is a road works project. This is unwise and unnecessary because we have four plans that could do an incredible job of marshalling ferry traffic AND improving the village.

The solution is unsafe.  Ten years ago when we had centre lane marshalling, the through lane was a dangerous place for children and was absolutely hair raising for drivers, especially as people were returning to their cars ready to load. It only too a few days before someone was hit by a car.

I hope the business owners, when they are consulted, urge the Council to return to the JWT concepts.  I hope somebody will have the sense to realize that this road works project is not the village revitalization that we need.  

But I know this Council to be stubborn and completely in love with its own sense of forward thinking initiatives.  What will happen now is that a number of detractors will urge a more comprehensive and integrated approach, Tim Rhodes, Andrew P., Richard Goth and others will perhaps malign them and associate them with the sins of previous Councils.  

And God forbid if they go ahead with this monstrosity, I wonder if they will find a way to blame previous Councils for the inevitable cost overruns, safety issues and general ugliness of the whole thing?

So I don't know what to say.  The consultation (really just information sharing) will report back to Council that there are a few concerns but that we should go ahead with this anyway.  Refinements will not save this thing or make it better.

I know what I want.  I think we should continue with the good process that was started in 2010.  We should return to the Snug Cove Concepts and cost out Option A.  We should make the policy changes necessary to implement it, continue to work together with BC Ferries, Metro Vancouver and the business owners and get to work creating the next iteration of our village.  

(Edited to remove the surname of an individual who requested it.) 

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