How to emerge from a Metro mess

 “Harold Steves says urban land designation
for Garden City lands is ‘illegal’

So says the title of an online Richmond Review article. Coun. Steves is in good company with Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission. In a letter to Metro Vancouver, Mr. Bullock was clear that all “General Urban” designations of ALR land in Metro’s Regional Growth Strategy bylaw must be corrected.

“General Urban” means “intended for residential neighbourhoods and centres,” which makes no sense for ALR land. There are other violations in Richmond and Aldergrove, but the Garden City lands one is more offensive because the commission ruled as recently as 2006 and 2009 that the lands belong in the ALR.

Also, although we always aim to be fair with the Musqueam Indian Band, why help its claim for “compensation for unjust enrichment” from the City of Richmond? The city never contravened the law to increase the Garden City lands’ value when the band was a beneficial owner that would have been enriched by it, so it appears to be unjust enrichment in every sense if the city now flouts the law to enrich itself, the new owner.

Unless the city promptly insists that Metro must change the “General Urban” designation to “Agricultural,” we might as well hand the band half a billion dollars or whatever. (Just one of the band’s innumerable claims against us works out to over $400 million.)

When the bylaw with the “General Urban” flaws came up for a Metro Vancouver board vote, one of Richmond’s two Metro directors actually voted for it. Fortunately, the other, Director Harold Steves, spoke against it and voted against it.

One of the oddest aspects is that the city could not seriously expect to enrich itself by defying the Agricultural Land Commission. It is a tribunal, which is like a court. It would not reward contempt of its authority. In any case, a recent legal opinion to the Garden City Lands Coalition Society explains how the grounds on which Metro justified the illegal designations are absurd.

So we’re facing the prospect of the city giving the impression it’s unjustly enriching itself even though the perpetrators must know that their tactics would not enrich it and that the false impression of the city’s own making might lead to a ruinous payout.

Soon—perhaps as soon as Monday, Feb. 28—council will vote on approving the Metro bylaw. They can specify ways they want Metro to amend it. Coun. Harold Steves will know what’s best. We need a council majority to support our Metro director who stood up for us in a dark hour.


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