Notre Dame Story In Straight

Georgia Straight reporter Carlito Pablo has written about McCarthy Stadium in a piece titled “East Vancouver residents hit “flawed” city hall process for proposed Notre Dame school stadium.”

You can read it here.

We’re looking forward to reading more, as the Straight was not able to get any information from the City or the school: “The City of Vancouver did not make a staff member available for an interview. A request for an interview with a Notre Dame representative was not granted.”

With the discovery of Scott Barker’s 2006 letter, we’re hoping for a response from both parties. Silence, in this case, is not golden.

No Bleachers at Notre Dame: City Letter 2006

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.CCOV-Coat-of-Arms-1969-590x560

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.

Northern Bluebird at Notre Dame

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.

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Open House Postponed

New Traffic Study Announced!

We just received an “auto-response” email from the City of Vancouver’s Andrew Wroblewski. He’s the project facilitator for the Notre Dame Open House. We wrote to ask him when the Open House might happen.

It turns out it’s postponed until sometime in April. One reason for the delay is that the school is now required to do a traffic study.

It’s good to see that our concerns about McCarthy Stadium traffic and parking are having an impact. The updated traffic study is an important step in the right direction.

However, it’s not clear about the scope of the traffic study. After reading his email, you may want to ask Mr. Wroblewski a few questions.

To Whom It May Concern;

In the past few months, we have heard concerns from the community with respect to the Notre Dame sports field.  This email is to provide information and an update on this development that is currently under review.

The school will be hosting an open house to engage the community and ensure that their concerns are heard.  While we originally estimated that the open house would be held in late January or early February, it has come to our attention that Notre Dame will need more time to prepare for an open house based on the community feedback we have heard so far.  Some of this preliminary work will take time, including the preparation of an updated traffic study, therefore; we are now targeting a post-spring break open house in early April. Please be assured that no decision on the application will be made prior to our notification process, the opportunity for the community to provide feedback for staff review and the open house.

A postcard delivered to the neighbourhood will arrive by mail in early March, providing further details on the open house and details on how to provide feedback.

Yours truly,
Andrew Wroblewski | Project Facilitator andrew.wroblewski@vancouver.ca 604-673-8460

We should take a moment to digest what is happening here.

In mid-August, orange fences went up around trees on 2800 Parker Street. At any moment, the Lombardy poplars along Kalso Street could have been cut and Notre Dame free to begin work on McCarthy Stadium. All this might have happened with a simple yes from the City with no public discussion.

Notre Dame and the City seemed to think this was acceptable because in their view, McCarthy Stadium was simply a change from a grass field to an artificial turf field, needing only a minor amendment to the existing permit.

However, after strong pushback and evidence to the contrary from our neighbourhood, the City has been having second thoughts.

First, in December it required Notre Dame have an Open House to “reset the community consultation in order to gain official feedback”.

Now, in February, the City wants the school to do an “updated traffic study”.

None of this would have happened if you hadn’t spoken up.

We’re pleased the City is beginning to listen. However, it’s not good enough to find out about a major development like a traffic study as part of an automated response.

We should be at the table taking part in the decision making process, not outside looking in.