Supporters and critics have flooded the city with passionate e-mails about Vancouver city planners' second try to get a controversial land deal approved in Yaletown that would result in two new towers, one of them with social housing.
And both sides will be lined up Tuesday night to reinforce those opinions, as council considers whether to allow the rezoning of the city land next to Emery Barnes Park downtown as part of the land swap.
The deal was derailed in January after the B.C. Supreme Court quashed the city's first round of decisions last year on the two pieces of land involved. The judge said planners hadn't presented people with complete information or allowed them to comment on the unusual land swap between the city and a private developer.
Construction was halted on the social-housing tower almost immediately.
In this public-hearing round, more than 200 comments have already been filed. Some argue the neighbourhood is already too dense and the deal is a money-losing one for the city. Others make the case that the deal is desperately needed because it will provide social housing for seniors, and city council shouldn't cave to the objections of a minority.
"The low-income Jubilee House residents should not be refused safe, affordable housing when well-to-do neighbours object to their presence in the Yaletown neighbourhood," wrote Maryke Gilmore.
On the other side, Amy Chen said: "We need more green space in this neighbourhood and the proposed development of a mega residential tower next to the park just makes it look so odd, and super ugly! Not even to mention all this land swapping deal was done under the table."
Tuesday's public hearing is for the rezoning at 508 Helmcken Street, a city-owned site that now has a deteriorating 87-unit social-housing complex called Jubilee House.
The city's plan, developed at confidential council meetings two years ago, was to exchange that site for a piece of land across Richards Street owned by a private company called Brenhill Developments.
In the confidential tentative agreement made before last year's public hearing, Brenhill promised to rebuild Jubilee House and add more rental units on the Richards Street land in exchange for the city property Jubilee House sits on now, if that site were rezoned to allow a 36-storey tower with 446 units.
Council reapproved the development permit for Brenhill's Richards Street site – the land where the new Jubilee House is supposed to be built – last week.
Vancouver's general manager of planning, Brian Jackson, said nothing has been changed about either of the proposals since last year, except that the public has been provided with much more information about how the land exchange will work.
Some of that information was available during the last public hearing and development-permit decision. But some details were made public only during the court case.
Mr. Jackson said the main difference he can see this time is that more people appear to have mobilized to speak in favour of the land swap.
"I am surprised at the support that has evolved for this project."
He also said he was puzzled by the opposition, since people have been objecting to including additional units in the social-housing tower that will be rented for higher rates.
"I thought they would want a mix of incomes so this wouldn't create of ghetto of social class and income," Mr. Jackson said.