The proposal to sell City park land on Rosewood Drive has raised some questions and concerns amongst members of our community. I therefore thought it important to write to address some issues raised in a recent Letter to the Editor “Supporting fair, equitable and transparent practices on Trail city council” published on March 19, 2013.
The writer suggested that offering the land to the highest bidder through a sealed bid process would have been more appropriate, and in fact, this was what was first envisioned when this process was initiated. However, the City sought an opinion from our Vancouver-based solicitors, Young Anderson Barristers & Solicitors, pertaining to the process to follow and it was decided to proceed without offering the land publicly as has been suggested, keeping in mind that there is no legislative requirement for the City to do so.
An excerpt of Young Anderson’s Summary of Advice is provided here:
“In order to dispose of parkland council must adopt a bylaw and the bylaw must, after third reading but before adoption, receive the approval of the electors.
It is our opinion that the requirements in relation to the disposition of parkland require that the City have a specific disposition in mind and contemplated before proceeding with the bylaw and elector approval process necessary to dispose of park. The City cannot first complete a park dedication removal process and then market and sell the former parkland.
Section 27 of the Community Charter permits the City to dispose of parkland that was vested in the City by deposit of a subdivision plan. Importantly, because s. 27(2) provides that the bylaw that receives the approval of the electors must authorize the disposition, it is our opinion that the specifically contemplated disposition must be before council at the beginning of the bylaw process. In other words the bylaw could not simply provide that the parkland “may be disposed of” and leave, for future consideration, the decision to sell to a specific person for a specific price.
Such a ‘deferred decision’ approach does not adhere to the requirements of s. 27(2).”
As was noted by the writer, any proceeds from the sale of the land must be placed in a park land acquisition reserve fund, which is true. While the City’s Official Community Plan, a guiding policy tool for land use planning, does include a notation that survey results had indicated a desire to improve maintenance standards of existing parks prior to considering the construction of additional parks, that statement cannot be read in isolation.
The Official Community Plan goes on to say that a system of parks and recreational facilities should be established that is accessible to all segments of the population and that is community, neighbourhood and local-area focused. New parks may inevitably be desired as community needs change and the reserve fund would then be utilized accordingly.
The neighbourhood of Glenmerry has an abundance of park land, with nearly 25 per cent of community’s overall park/green space located there; however, in other neighbourhoods in our community, park space is much more limited.
As a case in point, in the fall of 2012, Trail City Council was requested to consider installing a playground structure in East Trail, at or around the Aquatic Centre, because the nearest playgrounds to this part of East Trail are located across Highway 3B at Gyro Park or at Pople Park in Shaver’s Bench. With the City-owned lands around the Aquatic Centre and Butler Park being fully utilized, there is presently no opportunity to install a playground structure to serve the needs of this neighbourhood and acquiring appropriate land would be required.
I also want to make it clear to our residents that the adoption of the Park Disposal Bylaw No. 2750, 2013 would not set precedent as has been suggested and relates only to the park land on Rosewood Drive.
Each park/green space in our community is unique and there are many factors to be considered if Council were to contemplate future dispositions; however, the legal requirements as set out in the Community Charter would be followed then, as is the case now.
The City can appreciate that this is a complex matter and we do hope that this provides some clarity to the process that has been followed.
Dieter A. Bogs
City of Trail Mayor