News / Vancouver

B.C. Supreme Court quashes controversial Yaletown development

A group of Yaletown residents beat the city in a fight in B.C. Supreme Court to quash a controversial condo development and land swap deal.

The Community Association of New Yaletown, which launched the lawsuit last spring, accused the city of withholding information before the public hearing for its deal with Brenhill Developments.

Council eventually approved the deal to swap city land at 508 Helmcken St. for the developer’s site at 1099 Richards St. Brenhill got permission to tear down the decaying social housing complex on the Helmcken site and replace it with a 36-storey tower – this far exceeded density guidelines – in exchange for building new social housing on the Richards site.

But on Tuesday, Justice Mark McEwan overturned the rezoning bylaw and development permits and ruled that the city must hold new public hearings if it wants to proceed with the project.

“A public hearing is not just an occasion for the public to blow off steam,” McEwan wrote in his judgment.

“The procedure the city adopted was unfairly restrictive, in presenting the public with a package of technical material that was opaque… in limiting comment on the integrated nature of the project, and in failing to provide an intelligible financial justification for it.”

Community association member Kerry Corlett was “blown away” that the judge sided with the residents so strongly.

“It was just an annihilation,” Corlett said.

His group is not opposed to towers, or even a tower on that site, but was disheartened by what Corlett described as the city “railroading the decision through without any regard for process, zoning or neighbourhood character.”

He hopes the judgment will inspire the city to follow its own guidelines and residents to keep a closer watch on whether developers follow the rules.

But the city isn’t yet admitting to any wrongdoing, according to an emailed statement from the communications department.

“The city is disappointed in the court’s decision and we are reviewing the decision to explore all options, including whether there are any grounds for appeal. The judge’s reasons raise complex issues concerning development projects in the city that involve rezoning applications and public hearings.”

This lawsuit was one of about a dozen against the city over developments that raised the ire of neighbours.

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