Aggravation Prevention

The City of Richmond made a large offer for the Garden City Lands. Canada Lands Company CLC Limited, which had held the title, took $24 million, which was half the profits, and disappeared. The Musqueam Indian Band, which had a 50% beneficial interest in the property, took the other half of the profits after the sale was completed and then, just a few days later, sued the City for more. Could that aggravation have been prevented?

One might think it could have been if the Agricultural Land Commission had excluded the Garden City Lands from the ALR. The high-density development that was planned for the lands could then have gone ahead, and that might have kept those other two parties happy.

But I doubt it. When it entered the Garden City Lands agreements, the City of Richmond was expecting to be able to buy part of the lands, but it could be sure of nothing. According to the purchase agreement, the City would have to meet various zoning, subdivision, and official community plan requirements over a period of four years or so to the satisfaction of the partners—Canada Lands and the Band—before perhaps buying scattered parcels of the property. In view of what has happened, one cannot assume the other parties’ satisfaction would have come lightly.

Probably, after doing what it was told for four years, the City would have been able to purchase the parts of the property its partners chose to make available. (That would have enabled the City to provide green space for the development, benefitting those two partners.) However, since we now all know that completing a purchase at the end of March 2010 did not bring finality, it seems entirely possible that completing a purchase a few years later would not have brought any more finality.

Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.

Furthermore, the City’s title would still have been subject to  the Public Lands Restrictive Covenant. The way I read the conditions of that covenant, uses like Kwantlen urban agriculture education program that were being contemplated by the City could have been contested as not being for the general public and therefore violating the covenant. Until the end of time, the City would have had to worry about being sued.

If the lands had been excluded from the ALR, it now appears very possible that the aggravation would have gone on for years and perhaps forever. In contrast, strong legal action by the City now may put a stop to it.

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