Early Hallowe’en: ” Richmond plows ahead with Garden City plans”…the issue that rises from the Political Grave (PART 1)
Despite a legal challenge from Musqueam First Nation
The future use of the Garden City Lands may finally be decided – but it could take until 2016.
The City of Richmond was this week due to consider getting the ball rolling on an extensive public consultation process, which could begin early next year.
But, in a similar vein to the exhaustive three-year planning that led to the creation of Terra Nova Rural Park, no stone will be left unturned when coming to a decision of what to do with the controversial 136.5-acre site, which the city bought from the Musqueam First Nation for $60 million.
The use of the lands – the purchase of which is still being challenged through the courts by the nation – has long been the source of heated debate in Richmond.
Despite the legal challenge from the Musqueam, the city is determined to plow ahead and make good use of the lands, which are locked in the Agricultural land Reserve (ALR) and cannot be developed for the likes of housing.
The city’s senior manager of parks, Mike Redpath, explained in his report to city council’s parks and recreation committee that the lands are zoned for agriculture and identified as public and open space use in Richmond’s Official Community Plan.
However, he also pointed out that the lands are designated “park-further study required” in the City Centre Area Plan and earmarked “conservation and recreation” in Metro Vancouver’s 2040 Regional Growth Strategy.
The formation of a Garden City Lands master plan would provide a clear and well-marked path for the city to tread, according to the report.
The first step of a multi-phased program would be to conduct a lengthy “inventory and analysis,” according to Redpath.
Such a process would include conducting a comprehensive inventory of the lands’ ecological resources, before carrying out a series of open houses to share what is known and identify what might not be known.
An inventory and analysis could be completed by the fall of 2013, indicated Redpath.
“The lands present complex ecological and land use considerations and, consequently, are of interest to a broad range of Richmond residents, community groups and regulatory agencies,” wrote Redpath.
“Any public engagement process would need to be comprehensive, transparent and inclusive. Ultimately, the goal of a public process is to develop a common shared vision that benefits the whole community.”
A similar process was used to kick off the planning for Terra Nova Rural Park.
Completing phase one of the process will require an interdepartmental city team, as well as a professional multi-disciplinary consultant team, which would assist the city with expertise it doesn’t have on staff.
“Very few cities in the world have an opportunity to plan and implement civic spaces within a city centre context,” wrote Redpath.
In 2010, just nine days after the Musqueam accepted the city’s offer of $60 million for the lands, the band launched a lawsuit against the city.
The band claimed it had no alternative but to accept the city’s offer, since the land remained locked in the ALR, and blamed the city for not doing everything it was legally obliged to do to have it removed from the ALR.
It also claimed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) the city signed in 2005 is still in effect, and asked the court to make a ruling to that effect.
While the city admits it never specifically spelled out in the sale agreement that the sale nullified the MOU, it did state in the sale agreement that the land would be handed over “free and clear of all encumbrances,” according to the city’s statement of defence.