Battle Over Park Goes To Public Hearing

(May 14, 2014, posted in Articles)

A recurring battle between False Creek residents and Concord Pacific is set to heat up after Vancouver city council on Tuesday forwarded to public hearing a rezoning application that could further delay a major public park promised decades ago by the developer.

Concord is asking the city to rezone 998 Expo Boulevard, a plot of land southwest of BC Place, to pave the way for a pair of residential towers perched atop two floors of commercial space. But area residents like Fern Jeffries are fed up and say Creekside Park has to come first.

"What's the plan here? Just to keep adding people and not green space? That is not a livable community," said Jeffries, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association. "There's lots of children and families here. People need a place to see some green and be able to breathe."

The park has been planned since 1990, but the city claims its development is bound to the future of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and tied up by legal agreements between the city, Concord and the province. Those agreements require the future parkland to first be used as a containment site for contaminated soils from another plot of land east of BC Place.

That land, the park space, and 998 Expo Boulevard - the subject of the rezoning application - are the last plots of land remaining for Concord Pacific to develop in northeast False Creek, Kevin McNaney, the city's assistant director of planning and development services, told council.

"If the rezoning of (998 Expo Blvd.) is approved, Concord will shift its planning focus to work with the City on ... a new area plan to realize viaduct replacement, a reconfigured and larger Creekside Park Extension and a revised development site," stated a report presented to council.

"What this does is actually provide for a better park in the long term," McNaney told councillors, adding that should they approve the rezoning application, it would draw all the parties to the table where discussions on issues surrounding the green space could begin. But he could not offer any clear timeline for when shovels might hit the ground.

Councillor Geoff Meggs said the public would need to weigh in on whether to wait for what could be a better park in the long run or to take what's on offer already.

"As we know, residents on the north side of False Creek have been waiting for a long time for the park to be built," he said, later adding that, "if agreement is achieved on a reconfiguration of the park, it will be substantially larger and more consolidated."

Councillor Adriane Carr asked whether area residents were already putting up with less green space per capita than other residents, something

McNaney said he could not answer on the spot. She also asked how much money Concord Pacific has gained by not developing the land as a park. McNaney again said he did not have that figure.

A motion to take the application to public hearing passed, with only Carr opposed.
Fern Jeffries said she saw no good reason why Concord Pacific needs to develop the land up for rezoning before it delivers on its commitment to produce the park, adding that the city has handed the developer a shot at what it wants for virtually nothing.

"We could appreciate that the city gives them what they want in exchange for something ... But Concord managed to get away with this without any commitment about delivering the park at any point in time," she said. "Have your development. Fill your face. We want the park first."

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**This article is originally posted by The Vancouver Sun.