Unfortunate staff report – response 3

Background

This post is the third in a series of responses to the staff report that Richmond’s mayor sprang on Richmond Council the evening before the Nov. 15 council elections. With that timing, any public outrage about it would be too late to affect the elections. However, even if the elections resulted in a new council more committed to saving the Garden City Lands, the old (2005-2008) council would be in office long enough to vote on the “Pave Garden City” recommendations. Furthermore, since council would be voting the following Monday (Nov. 17), the councillors would have almost no time to consider the implications of what they were voting on.

Councillors torpedoed that scheme, but the staff report still needs to be analyzed and voted on. In this post, I will analyze the “Potential Strategy” (staff report page 10), keeping in mind that Canada Lands Company CLC’s Randy Fasan is likely to have worked with City staff on the strategy in his role as project manager for the application to exclude the Garden City Lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

 

“Potential Strategy” response

In the “Potential Strategy” in the staff report, the recommendation to Richmond Council suggests that the City of Richmond should first get the lands out of the ALR, thereby securing ownership to half the site, and then try to acquire more of the land, which would be the remainder if the wishes of several council members and the community are met. Then, according to the “Potential Strategy,” the City could ask the Agricultural Land Commission to allow the land to be put back into the ALR.

For a start, I should point out that in reality the City would secure absolutely nothing by getting the lands out of the ALR. According to the purchase agreement, the City would have to meet various zoning, subdivision, and official community plan requirements over the next four years or so to the satisfaction of CLC-Musqueam before perhaps securing something. Furthermore, by that time it would be evident that the trade and exhibition centre will not be built, and that will result in the City’s portion going down from 68 acres (half) to 57.8 acres, with the CLC-Musqueam’s portion going up to 78.2 acres. (The “TEC Lands” would be split between the City and CLC-Musqueam.)

In any case, the “Potential Strategy” of getting the Lands out of the ALR before trying to buy it for ALR purposes means multiplying the land value from the purchase price of $70,000 an acre to at least $4 million an acre, the City’s purchase price.  That would be great for CLC-Musqueam as land speculators, since they would get $312.8 million, almost all of it windfall profit. The City would have to borrow the purchase price. Assuming an average of 7 per cent interest, Richmond taxpayers  would have to come up with about $25 million a year to pay off the loan in 30 years. For a total of about $750 million, they would get to put land back in the ALR, where they wanted it in the first place.

I suggest an alternative “potential strategy”: leave the Lands in the ALR.

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