“General Urban” bites the dust for Garden City Lands, DND Lands, and Terra Nova

At a Richmond Council meeting (as General Purposes Committee) on Monday, Feb. 28, responding to a problematic staff report, council decided to change the designation of the Garden City Lands, Department of National Defence Lands, and Terra Nova parks (Terra Nova Natural Area and Terra Nova Rural Park) from General Urban (residential) to Conservation & Recreation in the new Regional Growth Strategy, a Metro bylaw.

Oddly, they decided to leave the designations unchanged until after the bylaw is adopted and then change them. That happened despite the best efforts of Coun. Sue Halsey-Brandt. As it is, there is:

  • Ongoing uncertainty, since the change will almost inevitably be drawn out over a long period, if it happens at all
  • A level of continuing disrespect toward the Agricultural Land Commission, even though it has been softened and can now be more easily rationalized
  • A mixed-signals message that does not help the City in the Musqueam Indian Band lawsuit against it

Note: Making changes before approval of the Metro bylaw would have had drawbacks too, but I think they were exaggerated. Although over twenty Metro governments would have had to agree to them, it seems likely that all would agree without question to the uncontroversial changes. The meeting was told how easily all the Metro directors would agree later (after the bylaw is implemented), and in that case their councils would agree even more easily now, when they are anxious to get the bylaw approved. Are we really expected to believe that any municipal council would object to correcting land use designations that are (a) blatantly inappropriate, (b) contrary to the bylaw’s goals, and (c) illegal?

While the promised change from General Urban (residential) was a win, the Garden City Lands Coalition leadership would have been happier with a Metro designation of Agricultural for the Garden City Lands for at least two reasons:

  • “Agricultural” better reflects the intentions from a Musqueam lawsuit standpoint. The provincial and municipal zoning are already Agricultural, and the Agricultural zoning at the Metro level would have made it clearer for a judge or arbitrator that the City of Richmond did not unjustly enrich itself in its dealing with the Musqueam Indian Band, which formerly had a 50% beneficial interest in the lands.
  • Since “Agricultural” would need to include a range of ALR uses, it is certainly a broad category that includes conservation, although the “Agricultural” and “Conservation & Recreation” categories are extremely vague in the new Metro bylaw. (Note: There was no need to change the old bylaw’s Green Zone, which included both new designations, other than to destroy the strong Green Zone brand that accomplished the goals too well.)

Letter writing to council and effective presentations (and support) at council meetings last week and this week certainly had a significant effect. Kudos to the Friends of Garden City—the far-reaching community of people who are committed to keeping the Garden City Lands in the ALR for agricultural, ecological, and open-land park uses for community wellness.

Thank you to Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law for all his help, especially his legal opinion to the Garden City Lands Coalition Society

We appear to have won a small victory over a senseless obstacle. Although we are not ecstatic, we are happy because our small victories keep adding up—slowly but surely.

Note: Later, in the regular council meeting, council voted to approve the Metro bylaw.


1 Comment »

  1. […] the better approach, would have been for the problems to be fixed first.  Read more here: https://gardencitylands.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/dust/. Township of Langley: A good discussion was held. MetroVanWatch made a presentation as a […]

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