Council shields Garden City lands from development

Local farmland defenders got their wish Monday as city council voted to give three large land parcels a measure of protection from development.

The Garden City lands, Department of National Defence lands (to the east) and Terra Nova Rural Park are poised to be designated "conservation and recreation" in a new strategy guiding the growth of Metro Vancouver.

City council unanimously agreed to request Metro Vancouver alter the current "general urban" status of the three parcels in the regional growth strategy.

The move came after heated discussion at earlier council committee meetings, where impassioned speakers, fearing development, came to the defence of agricultural land.

Coun. Harold Steves now considers the land safe from buildingsā€”unless B.C. Supreme Court decides otherwise.

The Musqueam want housing on the Garden City lands and is suing the city for control of the city-owned 55-hectare site.

"It looked like the Musqueam felt that we were going to try and develop, and this should solve that problem," said Steves.

City council has "general agreement" the Garden City lands will largely be left a natural area in the future, said Steves.

The veteran councillor noted nearly two-thirds of site could be rehabilitated as a productive peat bog. The rest be used for urban agriculture and playing fields, Steves said.

"That's my idea. Others would like to put buildings on it. The conservation designation allows buildings, but it would still need rezoning from agricultural to do that...and I don't foresee anyone doing that."

Metro Vancouver will now send a letter to 24 municipalities asking for comment on Richmond's request before the strategy is changed.

Both the Garden City lands and Department of National Defence lands are locked in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The city's Terra Nova Rural Park, which is used for farming, community gardens and natural wetlands, is not.

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