A standoff over the future management of a long-awaited seniors centre for southeast Vancouver means the project is stalled — and who’s to blame depends on whom you ask.
Ainslie Kwan, president of the Killarney Community Centre Association, said the project is on hold while the group negotiates with the city over management of the new centre.
“At issue is the lawsuit, but we will sign a document saying we have no claim against the building or land, but we want some assurance we’ll run the programming,” said Kwan.
In a February letter to the mayor, council and numerous staff members, city manager Penny Ballem said that the lawsuit launched in 2013, against the park board by six community centre associations, including Killarney, included a claim of partial ownership of community centre facilities. In the 45-page document outlining the suit, the associations accused the park board of breaching numerous sections of the current joint operating agreement while also limiting their ability to raise money now and in the future. The six associations involved in the lawsuit are Hillcrest, Killarney, Hastings, Kerrisdale, Sunset and Kensington.
Ballem wrote in part, “There have been some councillors who have raised the issue of ownership of the land and buildings related to the proposed seniors centre. To clarify for council, all land and facilities under the stewardship of the park board are owned by the city. The park board does not own any of the land or buildings/facilities associated with their stewardship of assets as set out under the Vancouver Charter.”
Ballem wrote that in order to secure the $2.5 million committed by the federal government and the $2.5 million from the province for the seniors centre, the city must have total ownership of the assets. To that end, Ballem said, legal services has advised it will be necessary for Killarney Community Centre Association to agree they will make no ownership claim on the new centre or land associated with it.
Kwan said she is more than ready to sign any document confirming the association has no claim to the land or building, once she’s been assured the group will manage the seniors centre. The Killarney Community Centre Association has been working to get the seniors centre built for almost two decades.
“I’ve told them I’ll sign it right now,” said Kwan. “But the park board will not give us assurance we’ll operate the centre. They say, ‘Trust us, we’ll let you run it.’”
Kwan said the associations are still operating under their current joint management agreement with the park board while a new one is being negotiated. She added, Killarney is prepared for any changes that may come of that new operating agreement.
“But let’s just get this centre going,” said Kwan. “This is about seniors in southeast Vancouver and our association has put in a lot of money towards this project.”
NPA park board chair John Coupar said because of the ongoing lawsuit, the park board is reluctant to put anything in writing that might prejudice the case.
“It’s complicated,” said Coupar. “Killarney is part of the group claiming ownership and assets so they’ll have to sign off on any claim to future buildings, but they hesitate to do that because they want control.”
Coupar’s hopeful staff will find some wording for a document all parties can agree on.
“I think we’re close but we need some flexibility from the Killarney group,” said Coupar. “We’d like to get started but we’re stuck on a technicality.”