False Creek group takes park fight to court

False Creek Residents Association members display green lights at night as a protest for the long-promised Creekside Park. Now they want a judge to show Vancouver city hall the red light over Concord Pacific’s sales centre and parking lot.

FCRA lawyer Bob Kasting filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court May 21, five days after the developer’s latest temporary permit expired.

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“We’ve asked the court to intervene to ask the city to play by its own rules and not be allowed to extend a permit for an activity that’s not allowed on park land,” Kasting said.

“This was zoned park in 1984 and the zoning hasn’t changed. It has nothing to do with parks, it has everything to do with selling condos.”

Concord Pacific bought the former Expo 86 site for $320 million 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. It has operated a waterfront sales centre and 60 parking spots under temporary permits since 2005 and rented blacktop to event producers, ranging from Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics pavilions to Cirque du Soleil touring shows.

“There is no public benefit from this land which was designated as public land, as public park for public recreation purposes,” said FCRA co-chair Fern Jeffries.

Jeffries said residents have unsuccessfully lobbied three successive mayors, three councils and three planning directors to no avail. She wondered whether Concord Pacific has too much clout because of its donations to the ruling Vision Vancouver. In 2008, it gave $35,000 and in 2011, $36,250. (Donations in non-election years are not published).

“Perhaps it’s time for developers not to be making political contributions and perhaps it’s time for Vancouver to join practically every other city and limit political contributions,” Jeffries said.

In an emailed statement, Concord Pacific senior vice-president of planning Matt Meehan said he couldn’t comment on the petition before seeing it.

“The current plan and study to remove the viaducts needs be completed before our site planning can proceed,” Meehan said. “Although we have been impacted, we understand these are important civic initiatives. We are as anxious as our neighbours to see our waterfront developments and the park completed as soon as possible.”

FCRA hopes to succeed in B.C. Supreme Court after failing at the Property Assessment Appeal Board last year. FCRA claimed the $400,000 tax assessment for Concord’s nine-acre lot was too low. Although the developer netted more than $600,000 annual income from the site, an adjudicator lowered its value to $1 in August 2013 because the estimated $17 million park and seawall would cost more than the property’s $12.05 million value.

The FRCA lawsuit is the latest in a series of court actions by citizens who claim Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver are ignoring both city bylaws and residents who oppose development. On May 6, the recently formed Community Association of New Yaletown filed a court petition to quash the rezoning of 508 Helmcken St., where Brenhill Developments wants to build a 36-storey tower beside Emery Barnes Park. The 320-foot structure would be more than four times higher than the 70-foot limit.

Kasting represented Kitsilano residents who succeeded in forcing the Vision Vancouver majority park board to scrap plans to pave a bike lane through parkland.

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