AG sues over forgotten park

The attorney general of B.C. is taking the District of West Vancouver to court, alleging the municipality has broken an agreement it made with two residents who donated their property on the promise it would be turned into a park.

In the late 1980s, Pearley and Noreen Brissenden bequeathed their property to the district, according to court documents, “to be used and maintained by it for public park purposes.”

Noreen died in 1990 and the district became the trustee of the land later that year, but the district never followed through on the promise, the suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month alleges.

In 2017, the district applied to the courts for permission to vary the trust, intending to subdivide the southern 43 per cent of the property into three lots, which would then be sold to fund the purchase of more waterfront land for public use in Ambleside. In their court documents, the district argued the Brissenden’s land was not well suited to be a park because of its steep terrain and lack of parking and transit access. The AG’s office opposed the sale at the time but is now asking the courts to force West Van to live up to the terms it agreed to more than 25 years ago.

“None of the physical characteristics of the property, such as topography or location, have changed since the late 1980s when the Brissendens made their intention to make the bequest known to West Van and West Van communicated to the Brissendens the bequest would be welcome and that the property would be appropriate for a neighbourhood park,” the AG’s court documents state.

Instead of converting it to a park, West Van rented the Brissenden’s home out from 2001 to 2018. The municipality characterized the renter as a caretaker for the property, but “the property did not require a caretaker” the claim states.

In the suit, the AG is asking the courts to declare the district in breach of the trust for failing to make it a park and for profiting from the rent. Any rent money collected from the property should be accounted for and handed back to the trust, the claim adds. And the AG is asking the court to order West Van to make the property into a park.

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