By Diana Dilworth on July 15, 2018

Council moves to retain the David Avenue extension right-of-way

(this is much of what I had to say at the Council meeting of July 10, 2018)

The right-of-way has been envisioned since 1984 by the City, by Metro Vancouver, and by the Provincial Government. It has always been there in the case that expansion is needed. It hasn’t been needed for the past 34 years. My opinion is that we should continue to leave it there and deal with removal or not when we have a better sense of what might come before us in the next 34 years. I really believe that we are being pressured to make a decision, one that fetters future governments, when we really don’t have to be making one at this time.

I got elected in November 1999, the same election that saw the two referendum questions on the dedication of the neighbourhood 3 and 4 lands. So then one of my very first decisions to make after having getting elected was the dedication of those two parks. It was a decision that I took very very seriously, and one that I made based on the fact that 76% of voters supported the designation of park land. That equates to over 4700 people supporting the decision, about 25% of the total population at that time. And with the knowledge that the trade-off for preserving that land was the retention of the existing right-of-way.

Important to note that the referendum documentation at that time refers to the dedication of 64 hectares = 158 acres. When all was said and done and the wetland and catchment areas were included, a total of 126 hectares or 308 acres was eventually committed on the North Shore. That is a huge amount of park space that is loved by our community and will continue to be loved for all time.

I very much recall the politics of that day. And they were divisive. Just as they are today. I have to say that I am saddened that we have an issue that is lining up our residents against each other, and forcing them to pick a side. And it needs to be recognized that it is people within our community that are setting up that divisiveness. I recognize that people have passionate viewed and we all have the right to share them. But what I have been seeing in emails and on social media is asking people to pick a side…with the words like “fight” “hostile anti-park group” “agitators”. And shame on those who are sharing these words, and misinformation, distorting fact and confusing people as to the actual decision that is before council.

We don’t really have an understanding of what the future holds for expansion of the Belcarra, Sasamat and Buntzen recreational areas. Did you know that last year alone, Belcarra’s visitor count increased to 757,000 visits per year? We also have unknown future activity at both Imperial Oil and the Burrard Thermal Plant.

No one is developing in the park, no one is ramming a high-traffic highway through, no one is destroying the park or no one is considering a rezoning of Ioco Lands at this time. And I’m not in a conspiracy with any developers. Those are very handy distractions from the actual decision before us … to remove an existing right-of-way that has been envisioned for 34 years, for use as a roadway, when and if ever needed.

I actually dug up the original referendum information from 1999 and it is interesting to note that the ROW wasn’t even referenced at the time, because it was not an issue and there was an understanding that the right-of-way was a strategic choice for future generations.

Almost 5000 residents voted to create two individual parks with the retention of an existing right-of-way. That was a significant message from the community that they wanted the dedication of parkland and they supported the right of way continuing to exist, as it had for many years at that time.

I’m prepared to respect that referendum as there is no actual need to change things at this time, there is no contributory or influencing factors at this time that indicate to me we need to change the OCP and change the status of the existing right-of-way.

Been asked by many residents to “leave the park as is” and that’s why I am not supporting the motion to remove the right of way. I’m thinking ahead, long term and strategically, and being responsible in not fettering a future governments future ability to make necessary decisions when they are needed. Quite frankly, this is not a decision that this council should be making.

Staff note in their report “in the very long term, the context of Bert Flinn Park and the Ioco Lands could change considerably as the region grows. Future plans, community demands, and regional needs could have a significant impact on the warrant for and public perception of a potential Ioco Lands connector route. Thus, staff feel it would be prudent to retain the right-of-way at this time.

And I agree with them. Good governance means taking leadership in looking to the long game, not just quick wins. And good governance to me means leaving things status quo until something happens that necessitates taking a closer look at the OCP, the right-of-way and not binding any future government from the ability making the decisions that they may need to make, or not.