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West Vancouver delays Brissenden land sale to build trails

Brissenden Park was bequeathed to the municipality in 1990

The District of West Vancouver is holding off on a legal bid to sell a plot of donated land, at least for now.

District lawyers were due in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday to apply for permission to vary the terms of the trust under which Brissenden Park was bequeathed to the municipality in 1990. The district is seeking approval to sell 43 per cent of the land to fund the purchase of more waterfront property for public use in Ambleside.

But on Thursday last week, the district postponed the court date indefinitely so the municipality could begin building public trails and landscaping on the remaining 57 per cent of the property.

The land on Rosebery Avenue in Upper Dundarave was donated to the district by the Brissenden family on the understanding that it “be used and maintained for public park use.”

In its application to the court, the district argues the land was never developed into a park, as promised, because it is too steep and too remote to get much use by the public. Arguing against West Vancouver’s case, the Ministry of the Attorney General filed a response pointing out the district has yet to live up to the terms of the trust it was now seeking to vary.

But, according to the district, that was not the only factor in deciding to delay the court case.

“The district is currently carrying out improvements to Brissenden Park and the district believes it will be beneficial for the court to know the condition of the park after it has been improved,” stated Kristi Merilees, district spokeswoman, in an email. “The desire for a new trail in Brissenden Park was raised by residents during the public consultation. The trail will improve the functionality of the park and provide connectivity.”

Over the next two months, crews will blaze two new walking trails on the land, including an east-west route along the northern perimeter and a north-south route along 25th Street. Eventually, the district intends to connect Brissenden Park to the pedestrian overpass linking Upper Dundarave to Skilift Road on the north side of Highway 1.

The district hasn’t budgeted for the park improvements but Merilees said the work will be funded out of reserves, which will be topped up by proceeds from the land sale if the court approves it in the future.

Heritage advocates, meanwhile, are in “shock and dismay” to find the district already demolished the Brissendens’ 1948 home before the court case was even concluded, said Peter Milller, president of the North Shore Heritage Preservation Society.

Miller said he was hoping the original portions of the home could be restored and used for art shows and music recitals as it had been during the Brissendens’ time.

“We’ve lost a very useful resource. …  It was a very nice example of a West Coast Modern,” Miller said. “I went up there to take a photograph and it was gone.”

In response, the district says the house was not well located for public use and would have required even more expense.

“The house has not had any substantial renovations, and the operating costs for maintaining a house of that condition for public use would be significant. The capital costs to renovate the house to comply with BC Building Code requirements for a public assembly use would be very substantial,” Merilees said. “Finally, it was not practical to leave the house vacant due to potential security and vandalism concerns.”

No date has been set for the district’s petition to be heard in court.

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