From CP rail line to condominiums?

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Parks board commissioner would like city to buy, develop land

John Bermingham

Parks board Commissioner Marty Zlotnik walks along the tracks at 5th and Burrard. He is proposing the city buy the rail line from CP Rail for $100 million. Photograph by : Jon Murray, The Province

Tomorrow night at a Vancouver parks board meeting, Marty Zlotnik will urge that the City of Vancouver buy the Arbutus rail corridor — for a bargain price of $100 million.

The Vancouver parks board commissioner says the 18-hectare rail line that winds from False Creek to Marpole would be “one tremendous buy” — and the $200 million the city would raise by rezoning the land for development could be used in part to wipe out the board’s debt of more than $20 million for cost overruns at Olympic facilities.

The land, which belongs to CP Rail, has lain dormant for years.

Zlotnik says CPR is prepared to sell the site to the city, and suggests that redevelopment include a six-hectare park by 2010. The other 12 hectares could be earmarked for two million square feet of condos, townhouses and commercial outlets.

CPR spokesman Paul Clark confirmed the company’s preferred course of action would be to sell the lands to the city.

“We are not a developer,” Clark said.

Referring to Zlotnik’s plan, he noted that “it’s not CPR’s proposal,” and the company is only sharing the local community’s vision for the corridor.

“This is what the community is thinking about, talking about, for the corridor,” Clark said.

Meantime, opponents are livid.

The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, which has members living next to the rail line, insists it should remain a transport corridor.

“We’re not talking development,” said executive director Karen Wristen. “I think it’s extremely short-sighted. Why are we messing with it?”

Sean McEwen, spokesman for the Kits-Arbutus Residents Association, argued the land should only be purchased as an unused rail asset.

“Fair market value is its value as a rail line,” said McEwen.

Any attempts to build density in the neighbourhoods from Kits to Marpole would be fraught with conflict in any case, he said.

“It would be very controversial in a lot of areas along the line,” he said.

After a long legal fight, Canada’s top court ruled last year that the city had the right to use the land as a greenway and transport route. It has already been included in city drawings for a future streetcar line.

COPE Coun. David Cadman said Zlotnik shouldn’t be stickhandling a redevelopment proposal.

“I think it’s totally out of the park board’s jurisdiction,” Cadman said. “They can’t negotiate land use.

“It sits there as a transportation corridor without the ability to develop, until such time as the city wants to use it as a transportation corridor,” Cadman added.

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan said he’s aware of the issue but wouldn’t comment until the parks board hears Zlotnik’s proposal and decides if, and how, to proceed.

If the city doesn’t want to buy the corridor, CPR plans to hang on to it as a rail line.

“The railway can continue to use it for any kind of rail purposes. We don’t have to sell it to the city,” said Clark.

© The Vancouver Province 2006


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