The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected CP Rail's plans to develop the Arbutus Corridor that cuts through Vancouver's westside.



Rail operations along the Arbutus line came to a halt back in 1999, but the City of Vancouver had enacted a bylaw years before that designating the right-of-way as a greenway and car-free transportation corridor.

The city envisioned a streetcar or cycle paths along the 11-kilometre strip of land, which stretches from First Avenue to Southwest Marine Drive – and is wide enough for double or single lots.

The CPR, which has owned the right-of-way for 120 years, saw the property as having the potential for a mix of commercial and residential development.

The company has been in court for the past five years challenging the bylaw – first in the B.C. Supreme Court where it won. That decision was later overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal.



Arbutus Corridor looking north from King Edward.
(Courtesy: City of Vancouver)
Now, the country's highest court has upheld the bylaw, saying it is within the city's legal rights.

This means CP Rail, which still owns the land, can't subdivide or develop the corridor. And the city doesn't have to compensate the railway for lost revenue.

The decision is also a victory for environmentalists, who have promoted the idea of a bike path along the corridor. It also opens the possibility of future rapid transit along the line.

It appears that the CPR may have been anticipating a victory in the high court. It had begun a series of public meetings and workshops soliciting ideas on how the corridor could be developed.