A Pitt Meadows resident doesn’t think she got fair treatment Tuesday at council, a member of which walked out of the meeting to support her.
Patricia Gordon said Mayor John Becker refused to allow councillors to ask questions, a normal practice, after her presentation opposing phases three and four of the Golden Ears Business Park.
“I was shocked,” said Gordon.
“Considering he’s taking a course on dialogue and civic engagement [at SFU], he got an ‘F’ last night,” she added.
Gordon, a South Bonson resident for five years, offered information to council about her citizen’s survey on the business park.
She posted a 10-question survey on the Facebook pages for Residents United – Golden Ears Business Park expansion, Protecting Pitt Meadows and the city page.
“We did everything we could to reach out to all parts of Pitt Meadows,” she said, noting that of the 448 respondents, 293 were from South Bonson. The remaining third were from north of Hammond Road.
The responses came in a three-week period during the summer.
Gordon said 376 responses were needed to make the survey statistically relevant.
She found 90 per cent of respondents were concerned that vehicle traffic on Airport Way could jump from 399 to 1,511 vehicle trips by 2031.
She took the information from the traffic study provided by a city consultant.
The survey also found that 80 per cent of respondents were concerned with flooding.
The survey asked: “Are you in favour of the proposed plans to build approximately another two million square feet of concrete tilt-up slab-style warehouses?”
In South Bonson, the response was 95 per cent no, and in other neighbourhoods the response was more than 75 per cent no, she said.
Overall, the responses were 403 no, 40 yes and five undecided, she said.
A petition opposing the current expansion plans was also included, with 1,273 names. She said more than 50 per cent were from north of Hammond Road.
“This is not just a South Bonson issue, it concerns all of Pitt Meadows,” Gordon told council.
When she was done, Coun. Bill Dingwall had his arm raised for a question.
But Becker said: “We’re just over time as it is, so we’re just going to move on.”
He was heckled by people in the full council chambers, and Becker asked two men to leave.
Most of the audience members also got up to leave, and Coun. Tracy Miyashita left with them, to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.
“It was the right thing to do,” Miyashita said afterward. “I don’t work for the mayor, I work for the citizens of Pitt Meadows.”
She called Gordon’s presentation “extremely professional and respectful,” and noted that other presenters and delegations receive more latitude to go beyond the 10-minute time limit, and to answer questions by councillors.
“When he [Becker] cut them off, and didn’t allow questions, they were rattled,” Miyashita said. “I’m tired of the disrespect shown to citizens. We want citizen engagement? Well, it’s not always what you want to hear.”
She the late Tom Murray’s zero tax petition and the Sheridan Hill quarry petition were accepted into the official council record, but Gordon’s was not.
Gordon said she went through other presentations and delegations in the archived video recordings of council, and some run more than 30 minutes.
Gordon said she felt dismissed by Becker.
“There was a lot of information, and a lot of time went into it,” she said.
Gordon is retired, but said the presentation was almost a full-time job for her in August, to establish an accurate methodology, then collect data. If council had asked, she would have told them she consulted a statistician with 45 years experience in similar research.
“But the mayor made the executive decision to shut us down,” she said.
The most important thing her research showed, Gordon said, is that the Onni business park worries the entire community.
“It showed that it’s not a NIMBY situation.”
Asked whether her negative-sounding description of “another two million square feet of concrete tilt-up slab-style warehouses” would bias respondents, Gordon said similar descriptions have been used by council, and noted that in 2008 Becker referred to Phase 1 as “butt ugly” and an “esthetic disaster.”
“My words are much kinder,” said Gordon.
She had been originally refused an appearance at council, but Becker reconsidered, even though he considered her work “pure political propaganda.”
Becker did not give the results of Gordon’s research a lot of weight.
“I have no way of verifying how it was conducted.”
The mayor took issue with the survey’s descriptions, which he said could have influenced responses.
“We’re not talking about a concrete gulag.”
Reminded of his own “butt ugly” comment of eight years ago, he said Onni has beautified the project since them.
“They had some butt-ugly tilt-up as part of the conceptual drawings. We went through it, and it was significantly improved.”
He defended not giving the presentation more time, and said Gordon knew in advance that any questions would have to be answered within her 10 minute time allotment.
“I allowed her to run 12 minutes. The time was up,” he said.
Any member of council could have proposed a motion to suspend procedural rules and allow questions for Gordon, but nobody chose to.
And Becker said Miyashita leaving the meeting “political grandstanding.”
Becker said any council member could put forward a motion to censure Miyashita for leaving in the middle of a meeting, but he has no intention of doing so.