“What did we get for $60 million?”

Note: Updated at 5:07 p.m. on April 1 in response to reader input.

The Richmond News letter from R. A. Hoegler is worth serious thought. 

First, though, the $60 million price is actually $59.17 million. (If the difference, which is $830,000, doesn’t seem worth bothering about, send it on over. I’ll put up with the bother.)

To keep this brief enough, I’ll just address the final three paragraphs.

Finally, it would be fair to say that council will make another attempt to exclude the lands from the ALR, if for nothing else than political posturing.

I’d say possibly but not probably, but in any case how would they succeed? It would be the beginning of the end for the ALR if the Agricultural Land Commission gave in, even if Richmond council is actually willing to risk killing the ALR by trying. (Maybe I’ll do a future post to explain this point, as any more detail here would be too tangential.)

However, if by some miracle the city is successful with an ALR exclusion, I would suggest that the Musqueam would rightfully feel betrayed, accuse that their ex-GCL partner, the city, was not acting in good faith but had instead kept a few aces up its sleeve to appease the ALC, but only used after the city got rid of its GCL partners by buying them out.

Exactly! This blog discussed the topic in “Integrity and the referendum ploy” and “Fear of the Musqueam or healthy concern,” although we gave more emphasis to doing the right thing and less to protecting ourselves from legal disaster. Roland has gone further by introducing the City’s “few aces up its sleeve to appease the ALC,” and I think he’s onto something. The City has typically to act with good faith and goodwill throughout the implementation of Garden City Lands agreements, but the Musqueam’s astute leaders and lawyers will not be lulled into complacency and miss an amateur attempt at a slick trick.

Thus, the city has either bought a 136 acre farm for the Richmond citizens, or will instead expose these same citizens to a long, expensive and drawn-out legal battle.

The 136-acre farm can be kept green in the ALR for urban agricultural, ecological, and open-land park uses for community wellness. It’s a needed legacy, because the City will eventually require all that green space to meet its livability standards. The City has been buying parkland for an average of $2.5 million an acre, and in the Garden City Lands location it would cost more—at least $3 million an acre, a total of over $400 million.

Just as Vancouver’s Stanley Park has a forest theme, ours can have an equally fitting theme, the agricultural one. The Terra Nova Rural Park has shown that we already know how to do it, as long as the politicians step back from destructive politicking and let parks staff and citizens work the kind of magic that’s made Terra Nova a wondrous place.

I agree that the legal battle R. A. Hoegler foresees would be unpleasant, long, and costly. More important, losing could result in the City paying huge compensation dollars, perhaps in the hundreds of millions.

A postscript for those who like this sort of thinking:

By the way, calculating that risk involves a combination of estimates and calculation. One might, for example, estimate the possible compensation at $300 million and the likelihood of compensation being required (after the the City getting the unlikely ALR exclusion) at 20%. In that case the risk would be calculated like this: $300 million x 20% = $60 million.

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