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Should housing be placed in Paterson Park?

The City of Delta and Kwantlen Polytechnic University own separate sections of the park
paterson park ladner bc
The former harness racing track as been vacant for over five decades.

Should the former harness racetrack, which has been vacant for many decades, in a prominent area of Delta finally be developed, perhaps for housing?   

Located at Ladner Trunk Road and Highway 17A, the park is comprised of two properties, with the western 4.85-hectare portion owned by the city and the eastern 3.81-hectare section owned by Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

As far as the future of the site, now only used by people out for a walk or walking their dogs, it’s pretty much status quo.

Two years ago, the city received a joint letter from the Delta Seniors Planning Team, Delta Housing Be Mine Society and Deltans for People Oriented Places saying that while the plan to add an enclosed off-leash area for dogs at the park was a good first step, there was an opportunity to utilize Paterson Park to meet a dire need for affordable and inclusive housing through the establishment of a 24-acre (9.7 hectare) mixed-use neighbourhood.

The three groups noted it is not a new idea as the Delta Seniors Community Planning Team had previously put forward a proposal.

“The Paterson Park Village Plan calls for the retention of the heritage sulky racing oval and the establishment of dedicated public play parks for broader community use. A community market garden and market square would help meet the needs of residents. An educational building with daycare spaces and seniors’ services would bring more supports to the community of Ladner,” the letter to council explained.

“Most importantly, the plan addresses the Delta housing crises with a range of affordable housing types (co-housing, below market rental homes, supportive housing, townhomes, and others) that ensures equitable access for people of all ages with various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, physical and intellectual disabilities, and a variety of interests.”

A Delta staff response noted there are currently no plans for a housing development on the Paterson Park site.

“Should there be interest in future development on this site, there would need to be a detailed program development, design and community engagement process, as well as OCP and zoning bylaw amendments,” the staff response noted.

A decade ago, members of the Delta Seniors Planning Team made presentations, including at a city council workshop, pitching the idea of using the vacant park as a mini-village that supports an affordable, supportive and diverse community for seniors.

The team's vision included an aging-in-place, walkable model that would have a variety of low-cost housing and amenities. Among the ideas was to include a "memory care village" for dementia patients requiring 24-hour care, a concept that's up and running in countries like Holland.

Delta’s Official Community Plan (OCP) currently designates the park for community uses and as a community study area.

One of the strategies in the City of Delta’s Housing Action Plan is to explore ways to increase land availability for priority housing. Potential future actions include identifying city-owned lands that may be redeveloped to accommodate housing.

Kwantlen College purchased the eastern section from the Delta Agricultural Society for $3.5 million in 1993.

When the announcement was made that year, then Mayor Beth Johnson described the deal as "one of the best things that's ever happened to Delta."

The idea at the time was that Kwantlen would build a post-secondary campus, but nothing ever came of it.

Several years ago, the university confirmed it was going to put the land up for sale to divest itself of the property.

However, a challenge in finding a buyer was that the land is zoned for public use.

Another factor was the Delta Agricultural Society, which sold the land at a discount under the provision a post-secondary institute would be built there, which meant any other plans would also require the society’s approval.

In 2012, former city councillor Sylvia Bishop brought forward a motion for the municipality to purchase Kwantlen's portion. Around the same time a group called Paterson Park for Deltans gathered more than 1,000 names on a petition to secure full public ownership.

Mayor Lois Jackson said the zoning for the site restricts what can be done, adding she didn't know where Delta would get the millions to make such a purchase.

In 1999, the municipality, after lobbying by the group Friends of Paterson Park, purchased its portion of the park for $5.25 million.

A task force was then formed, which heard a wide range of community submissions on what should be built there.

Citing a lack of money and the fact the park ranked low on a municipal priority list, Delta ended up putting development options on the shelf.

Paterson Park was formerly known as the fairgrounds before it was renamed in 1951 to honour A.D Paterson, a former reeve for 29 years and MLA for eight years.