Court dashes False Creek residents’ park dreams again

They display green lights on their balconies and porches nightly to protest for a long overdue park, but False Creek Residents Association members got a red light on March 4.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell decided that Vancouver city council has the power to relax land use provisions of the zoning bylaw to allow Concord Pacific’s condominium sales centre on a nine-acre parking lot intended for a park.

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FCRA petitioned the court on May 21, 2014, claiming the city had no jurisdiction to allow anything but parks and recreation uses on the land. 

“The plain wording of the subsection, which provides that “[c]ouncil may make bylaws ... providing for the relaxation of the provisions of a zoning bylaw...” makes no such distinction,” Sewell wrote in his verdict. “The legislature must be taken to have been aware that one of the most important provisions of any zoning bylaw is its restriction on land use. However, it imposed no limitation on the type of provision that could be relaxed, preferring to limit the circumstances in which the power to relax could be exercised.”

Concord bought the former Expo 86 site for $320 million from the provincial government in 1988 and later agreed to extend Creekside Park from Quebec to Carrall streets as a condition for building 7,650 residential units in False Creek north. In 2005, the city granted Concord a three-year permit for the condo sales presentation centre. That was renewed in 2008, 2011 and again in 2014, supposedly for the last time. Concord has also rented space to event promoters, ranging from Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics sponsor pavilions to Cirque du Soleil.

A 2011 city hall committee report said the park couldn’t happen until contaminated soil from a nearby Concord lot is deposited under the future park site. The city, province and Concord haven’t agreed on a soils relocation plan and, according to Sewell’s ruling, the city won’t consider rezoning Concord’s other lot until the future of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts is determined.

It is the latest setback for FCRA. In 2013, FCRA argued the $400,000 tax assessment was too low, but the Property Assessment Appeal Board lowered the land value to $1 because the estimated $17 million park and seawall would cost more than the property’s $12.05 million value.

Concord Pacific is a contributor to the majority Vision Vancouver. In 2014, it directly donated $46,000 to Mayor Gregor Robertson’s party.

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