While an air of cooperation is obviously a more positive environment in which to run a city, we do have to be careful we don’t bend over too far backwards in our efforts to be helpful. Undoubtedly, the last minute kerfuffle over the approval of Semour Pacific Developments downtown complex could have been handled better by the city (how often have we heard that?), there is something to be said for reminding developers that the people of Campbell River have the final say. And, of course, the people are represented by our elected city councillors as advised by municipal employees. For Mayor Walter Jakeway to say that it’s not the city’s place to decide the colour or style of someone else’s building – that it’s the right of the architect – is wrong. It is very much the city’s responsibility to approve or disapprove of design elements.
Now, the mayor is right when he said later that “in a free country you should be able to do what you want, within reason and as long as it’s not hurting anybody.” That was, perhaps, a more positive way to make his point. This issue could have perhaps been dealt with before it came to the council table before people had to choose sides and make a statement on principals. Despite this being a free country, you can’t just do what you want. Council and our civic authorities have a responsibility to ensure that business is conducted in a way that protects the interests of all of Campbell River’s citizens. If the Official Community Plan requires us to approve design and other elements so that they conform with zoning or fit in an existing neighbourhood, then that’s what we have to do.
Seymour Pacific Developments’ building is a landmark project but we can’t be falling all over ourselves to allow it to the detriment of good governance (not that this is, we’re making a point here). The mayor is saying that because this is a big project, it gets to do whatever it wants. I doubt that was Seymour Pacific’s intention. They just wanted to point out a stumbling block that could have been avoided. And that’s fair enough.