New Yaletown group sues City of Vancouver over land swap with developer

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The City of Vancouver has been sued for its actions following a land swap with a developer.

The suit filed May 6 by the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY) accuses the city of withholding relevant documents and information. The case arose from measures taken by city hall after it exchanged a downtown property with Brenhill Developments Limited.

None of the claims in the petition have been proven in court.

The trade involved a city-owned lot at 508 Helmcken Street, where Brenhill wants to construct a 36-storey mixed-use building. In return, the developer will transfer ownership of its smaller property across the street at 1099 Richards Street.

As part of the deal, Brenhill will replace the 87 units of social housing in the three-storey Jubilee House located on the city’s Helmcken property with 162 public-housing units in a new 13-storey building on the Richards property.

On January 28, 2013, the city entered into a land-exchange contract with Brenhill. However, the city “did not disclose the details” of the agreement when council held a later public hearing on the rezoning of the Helmcken property that would allow Brenhill to build a tower, according to the petition filed by CANY before the B.C. Supreme Court.

Neither did the city make available to the public documents related to the development of 1099 Richards Street at the public hearing on July 16, 2013, even though the developer had “already submitted a completed” development-permit application.

“In addition, when members of the public who were opposed to the application tried to speak to or ask questions about the proposed development of 1099 [Richards], staff and/or Council advised that 1099 Richards was not before Council at the public hearing,” the petition states.

The petition notes that even though the rezoning of 508 Helmcken was “dependent upon the redevelopment of 1099 Richards Street, the City of Vancouver treated the two developments as separate and unrelated applications”.

“Notwithstanding that the Developer was required to build the social housing development at 1099 Richards as a precondition to enacting the zoning bylaw”, council did so on March 11, 2014.

The enactment of the new zoning bylaw for 508 Helmcken was the final step that formalized the decision made by council when it approved the rezoning application for the site.

The motion to approve the application was made at a July 23, 2013, meeting by Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie.

With the exception of Vision councillors Geoff Meggs and Tim Stevenson, who were not eligible to vote because they were absent from the July 16, 2013, public hearing, members of the ruling party’s caucus gave the thumbs-up. Opposition councillors George Affleck, Elizabeth Ball, and Adriane Carr voted against.

The Georgia Straight asked Louie for comment but he declined because the matter is before a court.

The community association’s petition points out that as of May 2, 2014, Brenhill “has not yet begun construction of the ‘social housing’ building at 1099 Richards”.

The organization’s lawyer, Nathalie Baker, noted in an interview that the “whole matter is exceedingly complex”.

“There’s obviously a number of different layers to this, and a number of different issues,” Baker told the Straight by phone. “But one of the main points is that the public hearing was sort of flawed, and in several ways.”

In its petition, CANY claims that the city “violated procedural fairness” in contravention of its governing law, the Vancouver Charter. The petitioner is seeking judicial review of three council decisions in February and March this year and one 2013 development-permit-board decision.

The city was expected to receive the document by the end of the day on May 6. It has 21 days to respond.

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Brian Greene

May 7, 2014 at 2:55pm

How many lawsuits is that now, lawsuits filed by Vancouver neighbourhoods against its Mayor and Council? Has Vancouver become so American that they have to conduct policy debates in the courts? Guess you know where that will go!

Rand Chatterjee

May 7, 2014 at 3:27pm

This situation is simply disgusting. The Planning Department is being used as a rubber stamp for ludicrous development follies and back room deals. The fact pattern in this case is full of blatant misrepresentations and violations of the Vancouver Charter.

collarbone o'hare

May 7, 2014 at 3:38pm

wonder who's paying all the legal fees?

Victor

May 7, 2014 at 5:18pm

To Collarbone o'hare.....

Got any suggestions? Might be helpful to hear who these groups should approach for fundraising. You imply you have some ideas.

Taxpayer

May 7, 2014 at 9:03pm

The "public interest" is a phrase that seems to have evaporated from the lexicon of the Vancouver Planning Department. I suspect this is not due to any change in professionalism on the part of the Planning Department's employees, rather the result of direct control from the office of the City Manager and the Vision Vancouver-controlled Council Chamber.

Robby

May 7, 2014 at 9:54pm

Who exactly is Community Association of New Yaletown? There website just sprung up overnight and it doesn't list a single member or spokseperson. Is someone astroturfing?

CANY

May 8, 2014 at 5:08am

The Community Association of New Yaketown is just a group of concerned neighbours who live or work in the area.

We came together as a result of the alarming process by which these developments were approved .

Contact info for a few of us is listed in the media release posted on our website.

Want to learn more? Want to help save our park? Visit the newyaletown.ca website and Contact us.

mike

May 8, 2014 at 10:33am

Moonbeam and his band of merry men, nothing surprises me anymore with this council. No consultation or if there is only window dressing, the deal is already done. How many more of these blunders can the city take, we must eliminate Vision before they bankrupt the city. Never have the city been involved in so many self-inflicted legal cases.

Emily Howard

May 8, 2014 at 10:34am

In reguards to the article on the proposed housing site at 1099 Richards Street.
As a long time resident of the area, approxitmately 40 plus years it amazes me that people who are new (less than ten years) and know nothing of the history of this area would be opposed to this project. Social Housing in the Downtown South area has been an issue for the past four decades and those of us who fight for affordable housing are dismayed at some residents attitudes. Some consider this area, "Their Area" and God forbid that anyone who is on a fixed income would want to live here. WE ARE NOT YALETOWN!! We are Vanocuver's Downtown South! Those who consider Emry Barnes's Park their park must also realize that this a man who lived on welfare for a month. Hopefully this matter will be resolved shortly and the residents of Jubilee House can look forward to their new housing.

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