Concord goes to court over False Creek park site

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Developer wants to be involved in court action launched by residents over False Creek property

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

Developer Concord Pacific is heading to court in an attempt to stop The False Creek Residents Association from having the company’s sales centre removed from a piece of property long destined to have a park built on it.

In an affidavit filed July 24 in B.C. Supreme Court by Concord, the company said losing the centre would be costly and negatively impact its ability to sell and market condominiums on its False Creek lands.

“If Concord were required to move the presentation centre, it would cost in the range of two to three million dollars and result in the presentation centre being closed for approximately six to nine months,” said the affidavit filed by Matthew Meehan, Concord’s senior vice-president of planning. “A closure of the presentation centre would result in a loss of business and revenue to Concord.”

The sales centre sits on a largely vacant nine-acre property between the Telus World of Science and Rogers Arena. The property was recently used by the Cirque du Soleil.

Concord wants to be “a party” to the residents’ legal action rather than an intervenor – an important distinction, the company says, because party designation gives Concord the ability to appeal a decision given by the court.

“It is abundantly clear that Concord has a direct interest in the outcome,” the affidavit said. “Concord owns [the park site]. A granting of the relief sought would eliminate Concord’s ability to operate its presentation centre, or other commercial activities, in the area.”

The company is making its case under the so-called “hardship provision” of a city bylaw, which allows for temporary uses on a property planned for a permanent development.

At issue for the residents’ association is that Concord long promised to build a park on the property. Since that promise was made almost 30 years ago, Concord has used the property for its sales or presentation centre and earned money from leasing it to Cirque du Soleil, the Molson Indy and other commercial interests. As the Courier previously reported, the Quebec government paid $1.3 million to set up the Maison du Quebec on the property during the 2010 Winter Games.

Added to the interest for the residents’ association is the fact the property was assessed at $192,000 in 2009, then $400,000 in 2010. The residents’ association appealed the assessment, only to have the Property Assessment Appeal Board reduce the property’s value to one dollar. The board said Concord’s cost of completing the seawall at $7.3 million and creating the park for $9.8 million were reasons for the low assessment.

In May, the residents’ association filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the city and Concord over inconsistencies with zoning of the park site and the official development plan for the area.

“Both clearly stipulate that [the park site] is to be used strictly for public park and recreation purposes,” the residents’ association said in a release Tuesday. “Even the relaxation provisions available under the Vancouver Charter stipulate that interim uses must be compatible with the permanent intended use of the property.”

The City of Vancouver granted Concord a temporary permit in 2005 to build its sales centre on the property and has continued to extend the permit, although the most recent permit expired May 16, 2014.

 The extension comes as the city is considering the demolition of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, which back on to the property. Council is expected to make a decision next year on the fate of the viaducts and Concord says in its affidavit that is one of “the key steps” that must occur before the park – or Creekside Park Extension as it is referred to in planning documents – can be built.

Also, the company and the city agree that another piece of Concord property near Rogers Arena first has to be developed before the park can go ahead. That’s because potentially contaminated soil from that site – from the area’s industrial past – would be dumped on the park property.

Concord’s application to be a party in the residents’ legal action will be heard Aug. 26. The residents’ case is scheduled to be heard Sept. 11.

© Vancouver Courier

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