Reality sets in at Fantasy Gardens

I’ve added links and notes in this version of an item published in the Richmond Review. It builds onDaycare mixup at new agricultural park,” posted on this blog three months ago.

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Three months later, win-wins at Fantasy Gardens remain elusive.

In review, the City of Richmond is using revenue from development fees to purchase 12.2 acres of ALR parkland, the north part of the old Fantasy Gardens site. The seller is the Richmond-based Townline Group in a joint venture with Malaysian-owned TA Development One (Canada) Ltd. They’re replacing the old Fantasy Gardens village with condos.

Somehow, it’s okay for the developers to keep treating the parkland as theirs, even with the Richmond taxpayers paying for it.

For months, for instance, huge signs at the corner of No. 5 Road and Westminster Highway have promoted “The Gardens: Brand new west coast residences & a 12-acre natural garden.” Whatever “natural garden” means (no pesticides?), the 12 acres can only be the city park.

The developers’ website echoes the message and adds that the area “will be operated by the City of Richmond and will be open to the public.” Operated by? Open to? That could apply to a city-owned public park, but it doesn’t sound like one.

Unfortunately, some City of Richmond people have used the vague name of the development, “The Gardens,” for the park too. At the January 24 council meeting, Coun. Harold Steves alertly caught and questioned it, but the park still needs a distinctive name.

Meanwhile, the developers’ website continues to advertise the scaled-down plywood replica of Coevorden Castle as a “restored castle from Holland at the entrance to the gardens” (the park) that will be “transformed into a 37-child daycare.”  But the developers got their density bonus by promising a 37-child daycare in their condo development.

By the way, the city has let the developers use the castle replica as a sales centre, so it’s actually tied up for seven years. And not many citizens would want to let the developers use it to save another bundle of money when it’s freed.

At the December 2010 open house, I thought the Fantasy Gardens park was a great concept. It still should be.

A key obstacle is the royal treatment of developers in Richmond. I’m told it’s the way it’s always been and always will be. Let’s hope there’s hope.

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More links:

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