A 2006 letter from a key City of Vancouver staff member proves that bleachers were never part of Notre Dame’s original permit. It also confirms that building McCarthy Stadium must involve a completely new permit application.
The letter, written by then Project Facilitator, Scott Barker, was recently discovered in a file folder when a local resident was doing some spring cleaning. They also found two 2006 site drawings attached to the letter.
Dated April 5, 2006, and written on City of Vancouver Community Services letterhead, it reads in part:
“Please note that this development does not include an artificial playing field, field lighting or outdoor bleacher seating that had been previously indicated by the applicant during the pre-application stage. Any future application for such futures (sic) will require a separate development permit application that will include the notification of neighbouring property owners.”
This letter proves again what Notre Dame Neighbours have been saying about the original 2008 development permit. It shows that McCarthy Stadium was never really a “minor amendment” to Notre Dame’s 2008 permit.
The content of Mr. Barker’s 2006 letter is also supported by the two included site drawings. Both show a grass field with no bleachers.
One also shows three parallel lines on South side of the grass field. These are labeled “Retaining Wall” and “Grass Berm” (we’ve highlighted them).
This is significant, because Notre Dame officials and some City staff claim that seating was always part of the original permit:
“Minor amendments were made limiting the seating to only hold the present school population of 740 students, as well as reconfiguring the parking lot and the school loading zones.” [Formal Operational Letter-Notre Dame-27 Sept 2018]
The City Planner, Gil Kelley supported this view in his letter to local residents, dated 12 December 2018:
“Notre Dame Regional Secondary School applied for a Minor Amendment on February 9, 2018, to revise their approved Development Permit (DP) issued in 2008. The original approval included the construction of a grass turf playing field, bleachers and a parking area.”
On December 13, 2018, the day after Mr. Kelly’s letter, a local resident asked Templar Tsang-Trinaistich, the City of Vancouver’s Issues Manager, to indicate where the bleachers appear on the 2008 site drawings.
Mr. Tsang-Trinaistich replied:
“Further to your email below, I’m sending you the following links to the City’s website. The first link is to the 2008 permit application (which shows the original approved plans). The bleachers are shown on the drawings on the South side of the field). The second link is to the current application, which includes the Notre Dame operational letters.”
It’s unclear what information Mr. Tsang-Trinaistich relied on to suggest these lines are bleachers. The official 2008 site drawings do not show anything labeled as “seating” or “bleachers”. The three parallel lines shown in the 2006 drawings are still there, but the labels “Retaining Wall” and “Grass Berm” are gone.
The letters from the City’s Issues Manager, the City Planner, and an earlier memo from Deputy City Manager Paul Mochrie, show a pattern by staff that favours Notre Dame’s McCarthy Stadium proposal, while downplaying or dismissing the concerns of local residents.
We’ve pointed out several times that bleachers were not part of the 2008 permit. The discovery of Mr. Barker’s letter confirms this and raises questions about why City officials repeated incorrect information, when the facts were easily accessible: Mr. Barker still works for the City of Vancouver.
Currently, the final decision about the development rests with the City Planner Gil Kelley. This should not happen.
Our Mayor and Council need to be involved. They should instruct the City Planner to reject the school’s 2018 application. The school can then build its grass practice field as agreed, or it can apply for a new development permit.
If Notre Dame decides to build McCarthy Stadium, and applies for a new development permit, it cannot be left in the hands of the Planning Department. The Mayor and Council must be involved throughout to ensure local residents have their voices heard.