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False Creek residents challenge zoning ruling

Fern Jeffries of the False Creek Residents Association is photographed on Concord Pacific’s nine-acre parcel of land in Vancouver, which will remain a sales centre despite being zoned as park land.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

An iconic piece of waterfront property that was part of the Expo grounds when Vancouver hosted the 1986 World's Fair will continue to house a residential sales centre for three more years if a decision by the City of Vancouver is allowed to stand.

Residents of the False Creek neighbourhood would like to see the three-hectare plot of land developed into a park, complete with a seawall and a sandy beach. The city's zoning bylaws indicate that's what the property is meant to be used for.

Instead, the city has extended the permit that allows Concord Pacific to use the parcel of land, which is bordered by the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts to the north and False Creek to the south, for commercial use. It's the latest in a series of temporary permits that the city has issued to Concord Pacific since 2006.

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"This is the final extension, no further extensions will be considered," John Greer, assistant director of development services for the City of Vancouver, wrote in a letter to the company.

The False Creek Residents Association is hoping that decision will be overturned by a judicial review that's slated to be heard by the B.C. Supreme Court on Sept. 11.

"We're hoping that the court will agree with us that the city doesn't have the authority to grant a permit for the commercial use of park-zoned land," said Bob Kasting, the lawyer who launched the court challenge on behalf of the residents group. "They're allowed to relax zoning, but relaxing zoning doesn't mean changing zoning."

Both the city and Concord Pacific declined to comment because the matter is before the courts.

Concord Pacific filed an affidavit last month, asking to be a party in the judicial review. The company argues it will suffer financial hardship if it has to close down the presentation centre. The court will review Concord Pacific's request on Aug. 27.

In the meantime, Concord Pacific will no longer be allowed to use the presentation centre on the contested lot to sell properties outside the City of Vancouver, Mr. Greer's letter says.

The city is also requesting that Concord Pacific stop operating a commercial parking lot on the property. "The commercial parking area which is not associated with the Presentation Centre is not approved under this extension and its use shall be discontinued or require separate approvals for Special Events," the letter says.

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Fern Jeffries, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, says she's worried that the next city council that gets elected may not respect the three-year limit and could extend the permit again. That's why it's vital that the judicial review go ahead, she says, despite what she views as an admission on the city's part that the property is not to be used commercially.

"We think the city has made a significant move to reflect the concerns we raised in our judicial review application," Ms. Jeffries said, referring to the city's statement that it will not grant Concord Pacific any more extensions after this one. "We're delighted that the city has made a significant move to respect its zoning bylaw and to ensure that the park site is not used as a parking lot."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Alexandra Posadzki is a multimedia journalist who has worked in Vancouver and Toronto covering a range of topics including crime, disasters, labour strife, business, politics and justice. More

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