2. False and True

The MOU, we must admit, is not the belle of the ball. It is a Garden City Lands agreement that can be hard to understand. Even its given name is ungainly: Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Garden City Property between Musqueam Indian Band, City of Richmond, Canada Lands Company CLC Limited, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Still, that Memorandum of Understanding, the MOU, will help us judge what the City has said or implied about the Garden City Lands, Richmond’s humble famous field. As we go along, we’ll refer to the MOU, using clause numbers. If you download the MOU agreement, you can see for yourself what’s false and what’s true. Here’s a start.

1.    False: If the Garden City Lands are removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) the Public Lands allocated to the City of Richmond will be a large parcel such as the south half or west half.

True: “The Public Lands will be scattered throughout the entire Garden City Property” (MOU 1.10).

2.    False: Although 30% of the Public Lands is allowed for a trade and exhibition centre (TEC), the City can use the TEC land as it chooses for other amenities.

True: If the field is removed from the ALR and the TEC is ruled out, “the TEC Lands will be developed jointly by the City, Musqueam, and CLC,” with Canada Lands (CLC) and the Musqueam getting 50% of the net benefits (1.11).

Notes: (a) The MOU can be “amended by written agreement of all Parties” (3.2). No amendments have been announced, but Digging Deep has unearthed a “Richmond-CLC/Musqueam Purchase Agreement,” dated Nov. 18, 2005. It allows the TLC lands to be divided between the City and CLC/Musqueam, rather than jointly developed. (b) Very significantly, the purchase agreement strengthens CLC/Musqueam rights and weakens the City’s.

3.    False: The City can do as it chooses when zoning the CLC/Musqueam Development Lands.

True: If the field is removed from the ALR, City staff will have to “recommend a density of an average FAR of 2.0 to 2.5 for rezoning of the “Development Lands” (1.18), and CLC/Musqueam can terminate the agreement if the City doesn’t approve the rezoning (1.22 and 1.23).

Notes: (a) The high FAR, or floor area ratio, has daunting effects. (b) Under the purchase agreement, CLC/Musqueam also approves “Acceptable Rezoning.” In essence, CLC develops plans, the City approves, and CLC/Musqueam has final sign-off.

4.    False: If the Agricultural Land Commission removes the Garden City Lands from the ALR, the agreement will stop the Musqueam from claiming the entire field.

True: Unless the City meets certain conditions to the satisfaction of the Musqueam, they can terminate the agreement (1.23). For instance, the City must pass an Official Community Plan amendment that is “consistent with the understandings set out in this MOU.” If they terminate the agreement, the Musqueam can set their sights on the whole field. If and when it is stripped of ALR protection, the field will be a vastly more lucrative prize.

5.    False: Under the MOU, the City must keep trying to get the field out of the ALR.

True: The City undertook to “recommend the application for removal of the Garden City Property from the ALR” (1.1). It tried. It failed. Subject to legal advice, duty done.

6.    False: If the MOU agreement is terminated, CLC-Musqueam can simply develop the field without the City.

True: Ultimately, “the parties will cooperate in making whatever arrangements are necessary to restore each Party to the position it was in prior to entering into the MOU” (1.22 and 1.23). In that scenario, the field is again federal crown land—and presumably assigned to a suitable department. And Musqueam injunctions, which halted a federal attempt to sell the field, become a non-factor, since there’s no longer any sale to halt. At least, the foregoing appears to be what one can expect if all the parties act in good faith and, more important, with good will. 

There’s more to this story, but for now we have a sense of what’s true and false, right and wrong. Thanks to the MOU, some light has been shed on our muddy issue.

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