Brenhill Decision

2015 B.C. Supreme Court judge strikes down rezoning decision and development permit

Description
A citizen lawsuit against the City and Brenhill Developments temporarily halted the development of a high-rise tower at 508 Helmcken and a social housing building at 1099 Richards. Both projects were the result of a land exchange between the city and developer. B.C. Supreme Court justice Mark McEwan was critical of the city’s public engagement and notification process and ordered a new public hearing for the rezoning of 508 Helmcken and a new Development Permit Board review of 1099 Richards.
He quashed the bylaw containing the amendments because advance public notification of a hearing on the amendments did not mention other city areas that were affected. The judge also rendered void the related amendments to the Downtown Official Development Plan concerning floor space, low-cost housing and bonus density because the city did not notify all residents who may be affected by them.

Significance
Municipalities across the Metro Vancouver region took note of the decision, which reflected what the judge saw as an inadequate public hearing and engagement process, but which brought up the issue of transparency in negotiations and public engagement rules, which highlighted the need for an improved city planning framework. The new hearing and permit review were held, but McEwan’s judgment was overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal later in the year.

Background
The decision was the result of an action brought by the Citizens Association of New Yaletown, which argued that its residents were not properly notified about the details of the land swap and subsequent rezoning.

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