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Should the City of Delta build housing for Paterson Park?

The City of Delta and Kwantlen Polytechnic University own separate sections of the park
paterson park delta, bc
Paterson Park in Ladner has been empty for over 50 years, since harness racing ceased at the site.

Delta council last week approved entering into another licence agreement with Kwantlen Polytechnic University for the city to operate an electronic message board on a portion of Paterson Park in Ladner.

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 KPU.

The two-year licence agreement will see a licence fee of $1 per year payable by the city.

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

But could development be on the horizon?

Council recently 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 is a good first step, there’s 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.

Requesting a meeting with council, the three groups noted it is not a new idea as the Delta Seniors Community Planning Team put forward the idea a decade earlier.

“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 explains.

“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 response memo to council from staff notes there are currently no plans for a housing development on the Paterson Park site.

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

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

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

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 came of it and the university currently has no plans to build anything there.

A few 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.

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

Former councillor Sylvia Bishop in 2012 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.

Then Mayor Lois Jackson at the time noted the zoning for the site restricts what can be done, and 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.