Council urged to buy back Paterson Park
At one time Ladner’s Paterson Park was a lively and bustling hub of activity with throngs of people cheering on horses as they raced around a dirt track.
Today, all that’s left is a faint outline of that track and a grassy empty field that looks toward Delta’s municipal hall.
But a citizen’s group wants that to change, and is asking Delta to purchase just under four hectares of the park currently owned by Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Located at Highway 17 and Ladner Trunk Road, Paterson Park is an entrance point to Delta and the first thing visitors see, Scott Drake of Paterson Park for Deltans told council Monday evening.
“People look at that and go, you know what, we should really have something that shows people who we are,” he said.
Drake submitted a petition with roughly 1,200 signatures supporting Delta’s purchase of the land for conversion into a public space.
“What people keep telling us when we talk to them about the petition is really that they recognize the value of where it is,” he said. “When we were actually talking to people one of the things that we noticed most often is, not only do we have 1,200 signatures but about 95 per cent of the people that we actually talked to signed this petition.”
The quest to bring Paterson Park back into public hands has been an issue brought before numerous councils throughout the years.
Originally obtained by the Delta Agricultural Society in 1902, it was used for farm fairs until the ‘20s. It was later developed into a harness racing track, which went strong until the late ‘60s.
In 1993, the agricultural society sold the eastern four hectares to KPU for $3.5 million with the understanding the university would build a campus there. But that never happened, and the land has remained vacant.
Coun. Bruce McDonald said Kwantlen paid what was likely only half its real value because the Delta Agricultural Society wanted to see the land developed for public use.
Paterson Park for Deltans has asked council to create a new task force to acquire the land and determine what sort of use it should have. Drake said the group has not actually explored what should go in Paterson Park.
Mayor Lois Jackson said the Paterson Park issue has been before council many times and a previous task force did not find a community consensus on the issue.
“We do know that Kwantlen wants to maximize its revenue from this property,” said Jackson, who asked where the money to purchase the land would come from. “This is the biggest question of all because [staff] is tasked with keeping the taxes as low as possible.”
Chief administrative officer George Harvie said the municipality still controls the zoning on the property—private recreational within the civic centre development permit area—but that the university is looking for an estimated $12 million.
“Kwantlen’s a long ways away from actually having approval to sell the parcel and they’re still waiting for direction from the provincial government on that issue,” he said.
The land has naturally generated interest from private companies, with Colliers International previously listed as a potential buyer. There’s also been speculation about a shopping centre or mixed-use project with retail, office and residential space.
The assessed value of the property in 2012 was listed at $11.29 million.
“But I think there are very few people sitting in this room who actually think it’s worth $11 million,” said Drake, adding council has tools it could use to negotiate the price down.