A local group advocating Delta's purchase of Paterson Park is circulating a petition to gather public support.
Paterson Park for Deltans was started by Scott Broderick and Andrew Conley, who say there is considerable support both locally and across Delta for extending public ownership to incorporate the Kwantlen Polytechnic University-owned portion of the land.
"It's encouraging to see municipal support for what we already own," said Broderick. "Now we need to encourage support by the municipality to acquire the remaining portion of Paterson Park and we will continue facilitate that."
Delta owns about 12 acres of the former harness racing track, while the university owns the remainder.
Discussions have been taking place behind closed doors at Delta municipal hall and Kwantlen about the university's portion, which is now up for sale. The university is listening to offers after announcing it wants to divest itself of its portion of the park at the corner of Ladner Trunk Road and Highway 17.
The Delta Agricultural Society is also involved in the process.
In 1993, Kwantlen purchased the eastern section from the society for a discount price of $3.5 million under the condition it would build a post-secondary facility, but the land has sat vacant. The 2012 assessment of Kwantlen's nine-acre portion has the land valued at just over $11 million.
Coun. Sylvia Bishop recently put forward a motion for Delta to explore purchasing the Kwantlen portion, which is currently zoned for public use.
"Public support and activism can make a huge impact on decisions such as these," said Conley, adding, "It is good to see positive feedback coming out of chambers, but there are still many hurdles to come. The collective voice of Deltans speaking their support will, in the end, make the difference."
Delta CAO George Harvie recently wrote to John McKendry, the university's president and vice-chancellor, expressing concern there is a reference in the prospectus to "an opportunity to expand the development from the 9.41-acre Kwantlen lands to include Delta's 12 acres creating a mixed-use comprehensive development site in excess of 21 acres."
Harvies letter, which was made public at the last Delta council meeting, notes the prospectus goes on to say that Delta is supportive of such a development.
"We take exception to these statements. At no time has Delta council indicated its support for this type of development at Paterson Park," Harvie said.
Harvie said prospective buyers should be made fully aware of the land issues, including the municipal zoning and official community plan designation.
"Proponents should be aware of the community interest in these properties and the long-held expectation that any development at the site would be in the form of a post-secondary educational institution which would benefit the South Delta communities," he said.
Harvie also wrote to James Gorman, deputy minister of education, conveying the concerns and asking several questions, including whether the province has approved the sale of the Kwantlen site and if there are any restrictions or conditions.
Broderick and Conley said they're encouraged by Harvie making Delta's position clear.
For more information about their group or the petition, check out www.facebook.com/PatersonParkForDeltans.
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