Our friends at CP Rail have dilemma. They apparently don’t need the land they own on the Arbutus Corridor. This is evidenced by the fact that they haven’t used it for a decade. They also tried to sell it on the open market, but couldn’t find a buyer.  This is due at least in part because of the strip nature of the land, and the Zoning as a transportation corridor (which they challenged in court and lost).

There is however one potential buyer. This is the City of Vancouver, which has on a number of occasions over the years expressed an interest in acquiring the lands CP Rail own on the Arbutus Corridor.  Unfortunately, the City’s offers were based on fair market value at current zoning.  This of course is well below what CP Rail felt the lands are worth (due to their development potential).

The Gambit

Along comes an election year, and the executives at BC Rail decide the current Mayor and council would be vulnerable to a political gambit.  So, although it doesn’t make operational sense, BC Rail announces it will be cleaning up its tracks on the Arbutus Corridor, and resuming using them as allowed under current zoning. It also notifies Vancouver residents who have community gardens and related sheds etcetera that they must be removed from BC Rail property, or they will be destroyed.

This of course brought the City to the negotiating table, and the gambit seemed to be working.  However, the City’s offers continued to be well below what BC Rail is seeking, and BC Rail made an ill-advised decision to turn up the heat by destroying some of the gardens.  This turns into a PR nightmare for CP Rail, and even after a costly full page ad, their Political Gambit appears to be off the rails (pun intended).

BC Rails way out

BC Rail should consider simply gifting their Arbutus Corridor property to the citizens of Vancouver in return for Tax credits (they have done this in other communities in Canada). Although I understand that BC Rail has just finished a very profitable year, they could also include a profit sharing requirement tied to any future rezoning of any of the lands so gifted.