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‘Fair value’ for Arbutus Corridor at stake

Gardeners prepare for July 31 deadline
Arbutus Corridor
Fair market value for Arbutus Corridor remains a subject of debate. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Although the city says it’s prepared to pay what it calls “fair market value” for the Arbutus Corridor lands, it remains uncertain if a deal can be reached with owner CP.

The mayor’s office released a statement Sunday saying the city had an independent appraisal done of the rail corridor, which stretches from the Fraser River to False Creek, and was prepared to offer what it calls “fair market value.”

In a letter to residents along the line dated July 15,  Mayor Gregor Robertson wrote: “Unfortunately, to date CPR has not been receptive to our offers. The City will continue to work towards reaching a reasonable, fair agreement with CPR that is reflective of the Arbutus Corridor [Official Development Plan].”

CP spokesperson Ed Greenberg told the Courier Monday: “CP responded to the mayor last week in writing that we are prepared to enter into meaningful conversations with the city. And if the city wishes to make an offer at fair value, CP would be pleased to receive it.”

Greenberg went on to say, “CP has had a number of independent appraisals over the years done on the corridor and we are prepared to discuss the line. Discussions on where we go from here will be with the city and we prefer to have the direct discussions with the City of Vancouver.”

Mayor Robertson could not be reached for comment by the Courier’s print deadline.

CP announced in early July that “encroachments” on its property, including community gardens, sheds and other structures, had to be removed by July 31.

“We have been talking for over a decade and it’s our position that unless there is an offer [from the city] for real constructive conversations, we will continue to move forward with our plan to use the corridor,” said Greenberg.

The definition of “fair market value” is unclear and how to determine it depends on who’s asked. It’s been the crux of the impasse between the city and CP for years.

As the debate over the value of the land continues, gardeners along the line are asserting the importance of their work.

Maureen Ryan of Cypress Community Garden said its members are waiting for CP to pinpoint its property lines in that area.

“The community gardens are very important for the city of Vancouver and the neighbours in Kitsilano. People feel very, very strongly about the prospect of having these beautiful landmarks taken away in the middle of the hot summer when plants are about to be harvested,” she said Tuesday. “We understand completely what CPR can do on their private property. We are trying to work with the gardeners and other community gardeners to address this situation and hope the city and CPR would continue negotiations. We put years and years and years into making these landmark gardens.”

But Ryan said CP has been clear about its July 31 deadline, at which point Cypress Community Garden could lose its water line.

“We are doing our best hour-by-hour to preserve this asset,” she said. “We will have to move our water line. We will do our best to protect and monitor the plantings, the trees, the shrubs, but we will not be able to go on CPR’s private property.”

Meanwhile, another group of gardeners is organizing a “Garden Party” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 26 between Maple Street and Fir Street along the Sixth Avenue railway tracks.