B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Hinkson has denied the City of Vancouver of an injunction to stop the Canadian Pacific Railway from demolishing structures and clearing vegetation along the Arbutus Corridor.
The railway company began clearing the southern sections of the Corridor in Marpole last August after sending warning notices to nearby residents of its plans to reactive the railway. When discussions collapsed on the municipal government’s $20-million offer to purchase the land, the City filed an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to stop CP Rail’s plans.
The company has stated it will not settle for anything less than $100-million, maintaining that restrictive zoning that designates the Corridor for greenway and car-free transportation purposes does not permit the company from gaining a full market value of its property.
CP Rail believes the Corridor’s actual worth is more than $400 million, but it is “prepared to accept far less in order to reach an agreement” as it recognizes the importance of the right-of-way to Vancouverites.
Earlier today, Chief Justice Hinkson ruled that the Calgary-based railway corporation is within its right to clear the 45-acre, 11-kilometre long rail corridor in the Vancouver Westside neighbourhood for space to store freight railcars.
In addition to favouring CP Rail’s side in the dispute, he affirmed that “gardeners, pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle operators who have been using the corridor have no right to such use.”
CP Rail has owned the strip of private property for more than 130 years. The last of the Corridor’s railway operations were deactivated in 2001 ahead of unsuccessful attempts to rezone the land for commercial and residential development. The issue of zoning was taken to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006, and the City won the ruling on having the final say of what the Corridor can be used for.
Over the last 13 years, residents living near the Corridor took advantage of the unused lands and turned parts of it into community gardens. No action to remove the gardeners was taken until last year when CP Rail restarted its attempts to dispose of the asset.
“We are a reasonable landowner who – for some time now – has allowed the presence of trespassers on our land without retribution,” reads a statement by Mike LoVecchio, Director of Government Affairs of CP Rail in 2014. “I know this is a harsh description of those who have put such care into beautifying our land with their unauthorized gardens, but what would you call those who park their vehicles or build storage structures or leave abandoned items on our land without permission?”
In response to the court’s decision today, Mayor Gregor Robertson said he will use all of the City’s tools to “ensure the federal government and regulators address this issue.”
Robertson says he will address the safety concerns of reactivating the railway to the Canadian Transportation Agency and inquire whether the Corridor was abandoned by the company.
For CP Rail, today’s decision is a green light for the company to restart its clearing and demolition work immediately.
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