News

Plug pulled on proposed natural park

In a vote decried by one critic as “irresponsible,” city council has moved to allow developers to take over an area previously designated as a natural park.

Council voted 6-1 Monday to allow development on a 4.86 hectare (12 acre) site near Alderbridge Way and No. 4 Road—land designated in 2006 as a natural park.

“I feel like I’ve been lied to or tricked in a way,” said Michael Wolfe, a lifelong resident of the West Cambie area, known as the Alexandra neighbourhood. “That vote shouldn’t have happened.”

The land is still privately owned and occupied by single-family homes, but the city was prepared to spend at least $23.6 million on the land. Wolfe, who lives near the land, appealed to council Monday before the vote, saying he recently found reasons enough to preserve the land: a great blue heron, hawks, a kestrel and ducks.

“Why would you not take the option that consults the residents?” he said. “They’re saving this money, but what’s it going to be used for?”

In recent years at least some of the 15 affected property owners have been anxiously awaiting the city to make a move on the land, according to city staff. But Wolfe is skeptical, noting none had publicly appeared before council.

Coun. Chak Au, the lone councillor to vote against the move, said the land was designated park after numerous rounds of public consultation in 2006. Changing it now should require a similar process, he said.

“There might be good reasons to change the plan, however, it cannot be done in a way that it appears to be making a shortcut,” he said. “We need to have an open consultation process.”

Staff have said there will be public consultation on future use, but parkland is off the table. They also suggested the cash set aside for the land can now buy natural parkland elsewhere, but Au said he wanted to see such an alternative proposal first.

“This is just like asking to commit to something that I don’t know will happen,” he said. “This is just like asking me to sign a blank cheque.”

He also noted new homebuyers in the redeveloping area would have put their faith in the area plan, which called for the natural park.

“If you change it, it might be unfair to these people as well.”

Development on the former parkland site could include townhouses, apartments or even an extension of a retail proposal anchored by Walmart.

Councillors Linda Barnes, Derek Dang, Linda McPhail, Ken Johnston, Bill McNulty and Harold Steves voted in favour of changing the parkland’s designation. Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt were absent.

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