Arbutus community gardens: NPA's Kirk LaPointe accused of flip-flop over land purchase

The controversy over CP Rail's plans for the Arbutus Victory Gardens continued Monday as the Non-Partisan Alliance's mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe was accused of inconsistencies in his response to the current stand off.

Political posturing heats up as community pleads for help over threatened gardens

The controversy over CP Rail's plans for the Arbutus Victory Gardens continued Monday as the Non-Partisan Alliance's mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe was accused of flip-flopping over his response to the current stand off.

LaPointe posted what he called "some truths about Mayor Gregor Robertson's dispute with Canadian Pacific Railways" on his campaign blog Sunday.

Responding to Robertson's accusations of bullying by the rail company last week, LaPointe writes, "When you are five times apart on asking price, and you have repeatedly warned what you were willing to do, you can expect in business to have your lowball offer met with hardball practices."

But in a release Monday, Vision Vancouver says that LaPointe's position on the disputed land has been inconsistent, with the candidate criticizing the current mayor for both trying to purchase the property for the City, and for pricing the land too low.

"By saying the City's offer is too low, he is giving the green light to CP to try and get more tax dollars from the city," Counc. Heather Deal said in a statement.

"For Mr. LaPointe to side with CP instead of the city, and contradict himself on a serious city issue, demonstrates a lack of experience and shows what's at risk with electing the NPA."

LaPointe told CBC News he doesn't believe he has flip-flopped on the issue and said his plan would be to consult with the community, develop a plan then enter into negotiations.

Call for legal action

Meanwhile, the gardeners whose plots are at risk of being bulldozed have written to city hall and other Vancouver politicians calling for intervention "by any legal means available" to halt the destruction.

The letter calls for CP Rail to be obliged to present a viable business plan as to their future use of the land before any further demolition takes place and in the interim, be prevented from spraying herbicides on the gardens.

The Victory Gardeners are also asking city hall to prioritize finding new garden space for those whose plots were bulldozed and, in the event that demolition continues, help with relocating garden material.

"Gardens coexisted with the trains for six decades, and did not interfere with safe and effective running and maintenance of the railway line," the letter states. "For decades, there was implicit permission from CP that gardeners could use the land."

The gardeners were first contacted in May by the railway and asked to remove everything that encroached on company land, but they refused, and the deadline for that action passed. Last week, CP Rail posted "No trespassing" signs and sent in crews to begin clearing the rail line.

Decades-old dispute

Residents are caught in the middle of a decades-old dispute between CP Rail and the city ever since the city refused to allow the railway to develop the land and insisted it remain a greenway.  

The dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in 2006 ruled the city had final say over whether to allow development of the corridor, but the railway still maintained the right to use it for train traffic.

​The city says it doesn't want freight trains running down the line, and has offered CP what it calls fair market value for the land. 

CP says the offer isn't what it considers fair. It says the railway shouldn't be faulted for behaving like one.

Trains haven't run along the line in more than a decade and some gardeners have spent 20 years or more trying to create an urban green space there — an oasis of flowers and trees.


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