Curing the wrong-place madness

The Richmond Review published “Garden City Lands are the wrong place for aquatic centre, stadium” weeks ago, but there’s been little change in the faulty assumption from some (who should know better) that it’s fine to disrespect (a) the Agricultural Land Reserve and (b) the Musqueam lawsuit.

Here (below) is the answer in a new form, with an illustration of part of the viewscape that would replace the green natural one in a concept that would consolidate Riverport and Minoru facilities on the Garden City Lands. It’s practically certain the concept will never become reality, but the problem is extensive collateral damage of several kinds, which is 100% certain if the madness continues.

Part of a Garden City Lands viewscape in the rinks/pools idea.

When a TV crew interviewed me on the Garden City Lands this week, I found they’d just interviewed a citizen who wants community sports facilities in that green space. The facilities might include an aquatic centre, stadium and artificial-grass fields. Wrong place.

They can only happen if the lands are removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). But the Agricultural Land Commission has rejected two recent applications for that. Most likely it wouldn’t even listen to a third.

In any case, I followed clues to the source of confusion. It seems the citizen had given undue significance to the “Conservation and Recreation” label on the Garden City Lands in a Metro Vancouver bylaw map.

The key point here is that B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission Act always prevails over any local bylaw that conflicts with it. Both the provincial act (section 46) and the Metro bylaw (6.11.2) state that. To the extent of any conflict, the local bylaw has “no force or effect.”

As it happens, though, the proposed non-ALR uses for the lands don’t even fit with the brief Metro description of “Conservation and Recreation.” Its focus is to protect natural assets.

For taxpayers, the problem also adds to our risk in the Musqueam lawsuit. Put simply, it claims the city “unjustly enriched” itself by making a weak failed effort at getting the lands out of the ALR so as to buy the Musqueam’s interest at a depressed price. If the park planning assumes the city can get the lands out of the ALR with a good effort, it supports the case against us. The “unjust enrichment” figures work out to $250 million.

Fortunately, informed citizens have shown how the Garden City Lands can simultaneously serve entirely for agriculture, entirely for conservation and entirely for recreation in the open-land park in the ALR.

Our justly rich success will flow from our responsible approach:

  • honouring the natural legacies of the lands,
  • valuing community wellness and harmony,
  • and setting firm expectations for excellence.
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