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Residents group takes Vancouver to court over services agreement for Squamish Nation development

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A Kitsilano residents group is taking the City of Vancouver to court over an agreement made with the Squamish Nation for a major new development.

The group wants the court to quash a services agreement for the Senakw project at the south end of the Burrard Bridge, and is arguing residents weren’t given a chance to weigh in before the city gave its approval.

The development on Squamish Nation lands will feature 11 towers and thousands of rental units, with a federal loan of $1.4 billion going towards the first two phases of construction.

The Kits Point Residents Association has now filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court requesting a judicial review of the approval of the services agreement for the project, which deals with the provision of utilities, police and fire, as well as other services.

In the court document, the group said the city gave the green-light for the agreement at an in-camera meeting without the public present, and without “providing residents affected by the development…an opportunity to be heard."

“While there is no statutory requirement for the city to hold a public hearing, given the potential impact of the city’s decision on the residents of Vancouver and Kits Point…the city had not only the authority to implement an appropriate consultation process, but a duty to do so in the circumstances,” the group said in the petition.

“The city incorrectly and unreasonably believed that since the Nation was not required to consult city residents, it too was not required to consult or hear from its residents.”

CTV News requested an interview with the association on Thursday but was told no one was available. In the legal petition, the group said it has been supportive of the Nation’s intention to develop the lands, but “is concerned about its size, density, heights of towers, and the impact it will have n the neighbouring residential area, including on traffic, infrastructure, and the use of Vanier Park."

“Despite statements to the contrary, the city did have some control over what would ultimately be built on the lands and the power to hear from residents,” the group said in the court document. “The Nation requires city services and access through Vanier Park to proceed, both of which had to be negotiated with the city to build the project to the Nation’s desired size and scale.”

Current city councillor Christine Boyle, who is running for re-election with the OneCity Vancouver party, said she was disappointed to hear about the petition.

“Indigenous nations have waited far too long already for land back, and for reconciliation and a recognition of rights,” she said. “The process that council followed on this issue was proper and following precedent and legal advice.”

Matthew Norris, a member of the Lac La Ronge First Nation who is also running for council with OneCity Vancouver, pointed out the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation had just recently been observed.

“If we’re to be a city of reconciliation then we need to work together the Indigenous nations on whose lands we live,” he said. “Challenging these projects and introducing significant delays to them is not how we move forward together.”

Current councillor and TEAM Vancouver mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick says neighbourhoods need to be listened to, and added she felt too many municipal issues are being dealt with out of the public eye.

“This kind of decision should not be made behind closed doors. These are things that affect peoples lives and should be open to the public,” she said. “It is Squamish land, it’s their right to develop as they so desire, but it still is intersecting with Vancouver and it’s going to have a big effect.”

In a statement to CTV News, the city said it is reviewing the petition and will respond in due course. The Squamish Nation said it won’t be commenting until its lawyers have reviewed the legal document.

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