Coun. Rob Howard’s Dec. 4 Richmond News letter

Coun. Rob Howard’s
recent letter to the Richmond News expresses the pro-development view of the Garden City lands issue as well as possible.

Coun. Howard has now recognized that the City of Richmond can get no more than 50% of the Garden City lands, rather than the 70% that he was evidently hoping for when quoted earlier. Actually, though, the City’s share would be lower, since the Trade and Exhibition Centre Lands would almost certainly end up being split with the venture partners, who are Canada Lands Company Limited CLC and the Musqueam Indian Band. (It appears to have become impracticable to build the centre.) That would reduce the City’s eventual share to a maximum of 42.5%, with 57.5% going to the venture partners. However, there is one factor, neighbourhood park dedication, that would add to the City’s land available for public purposes, and there several factors that would reduce the amount and/or constrain the City. 

Basically, the City land, which must be scattered throughout the development lands, would provide green space for the mega-density residential development. That would offset some of the many negative effects of jamming more new Richmond residents into the Garden City Lands than the entire increase in Richmond population in the 2001-2006 period between censuses (in addition to the large projected increase in the existing plan).

There is also something to be said for Coun. Howard’s view that there are risks involved if the City does not get its part of the lands according to the existing agreement. The bad effects that he lists can come about in various ways between now and January 2013, which is the date when the City might get its parcels according to the current schedule, although the City would more likely get its parcels, if any, in around 2015 or 2016, since schedules typically slip. The purchase agreement could come to an end fairly soon on the basis of Canada Lands not being able to get the Garden City lands removed from the Agricultural land reserves, and there are various ongoing opportunities in the purchase agreement for the venture partners (Canada Lands and Musqueam) to bring the agreement to an end if the City does not keep them happy enough with what it does for them.

If the purchase agreement and the underlying initial agreement (the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU) come to an end, the City will need to have learned from its experience so as to act more adeptly in ensuring that the Garden City lands remain available, at least as green space and preferably with more community-use options. In particular, Richmond Council members will need to remain at the ready and then act promptly and decisively with knowledge, diligence, and fortitude.

Coun. Howard is mistaken in his hope to “obtain the land from the federal government.” That cannot happen at this time because the land belongs to Canada Lands, not the federal government. (That is an important distinction, and Coun. Howard really must be under a misunderstanding about the current owner because his letter repeats the mistake, while also stating the purchase price incorrectly.) Obtaining the land from the federal government is beyond the current agreements. Even if the agreements get terminated before the City’s purchase from Canada Lands is completed, there will be many obstacles to being given the lands by the federal government or purchasing the lands from the federal government. That is because of the Musqueam’s rights, which must and should be respected. In contrast, there are various ways in which Richmond could benefit from the lands without the federal government transferring ownership to the City.

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