10. The Scary Part

As you may have heard, the City of Richmond is applying to have the Garden City lands, 136 acres of green open space, removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). It would mainly become mega-density development. Either 58 or 48 acres would be left green, with the City perhaps obtaining it in 2013 for park for the development’s population.

These are the people’s lands—owned by us, the taxpayers, for over a century. Many residents want to keep them that way for the benefit of the community. For that to happen, the first step is to keep them in the ALR.

Unfortunately, the city is spending immense sums of taxpayer money to opposite effect. It is mired in Garden City lands agreements with the federal government, Canada Lands Company, and the Musqueam Indian Band, and its tactics to inform the public keep turning into self-serving misinformation.

Fortunately, B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission rejected an earlier application to remove the lands from the ALR, and there’s a strong chance the commission will reject this second one too. Whether or not the lands get removed, the other parties have ways to terminate the agreements.

Since there is little natural support for developing this green and fertile land in the city centre, the false information and fear have been used to dissuade people from acting to save the Garden City lands. However, if there’s anything to fear, it’s the city’s unreadiness for what will happen when the agreements falter, as they likely will.

That includes legal unreadiness. To illustrate, I analyzed advice the city recently received, and I shared the analysis with city council. Then, at the Feb. 25 council meeting, the city-hired lawyer illustrated the need himself. Coun. Harold Steves led the lawyer into showing that the supposedly scary effect of the Musqueam resuming an old legal action would be the federal government regaining firm ownership, which would help the community get back the people’s lands. What’s scariest is that the lawyer hadn’t figured that out on his own.

The city needs expert legal advice now about the next steps if the agreements come to the negotiation and mediation stage or if they get terminated. If the council members and city staff are ready, the Richmond community will do well.

We even need to think the unthinkable and be prepared if the Garden City Lands get removed from the ALR. In that context, Richmond would need expert legal advice to regain the control over the rezoning and subdivision approval process that slipped in the agreements. Related advice would be about ways to be sure of actually getting some land in a few years, as that is by no means certain.

On the brighter side, we need legal advice about the best ways to move forward if the Agricultural Land Commission again refuses to remove the lands from the ALR.

I took advantage of some legal advice to ensure for my own peace of mind that there are courses of action for ensuring that the Garden City Lands will continue to benefit the Richmond community if the Lands stay in the ALR. There are, but there’s an obstacle to surmount: success could depend on the City having its plan ready in advance. That includes having the support of the federal government lined up.

Many hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for staff time and consultants’ fees must have been spent to influence the community and Agricultural Land Commission, and the stakes are beyond price. It would be foolish to fail to get the best available legal advice.

Whether or not we obtain and follow such advice, another party to the agreements that keeps threatening legal action will continue to have highly capable counsel. If we stumble in the dark without top-notch guidance, we’ll be out of luck. To protect Richmond and save the soul of the Garden City, we must become “better in every way.”

1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Gray Robinson Says:

    I just want to know what I can do to help stop this.
    I have lived in Richmond 31 years. (Born and raised)

    We know we will never get this land back, we would be crazy to loose it.
    We have destroyed the look of #3 road and we should at least focus our efforts on making the system of transit work. After all the money spent to have people live near transit, I can’t figure why we would do this.

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