The community garden loophole

What's up with the community garden at Burrard and Davie?

I had been wondering why prime real estate in one of Canada’s most expensive cities was dedicated to growing vegetables and peonies rather than making millions of dollars. I know the price of tomatoes is rising and the housing market is falling, but it didn’t seem to add up.

It seems that community gardens are less about community and more about tax breaks.

It would have been nice if developers across the land had traded in their leather briefcases for wheelbarrows. If they took their hands out of their deep pockets and got them into some soil. If they put down their cell phones and picked up a hoe. If they had traded in their designer suits for burlap hoodies. Too much? Okay.

But, no. Developers used a “community garden loophole” to save money on taxes.

The land where the community garden at Burrard and Davie sits used to be a gas station. Prima Properties has to let the toxic land sit for a number of years before it can build on the site. Having a community garden on the site seems like a great idea. A great idea that costs the city $345,000 a year, according to the Province.

Adding up the numbers, Vancouver loses just over $1 million a year. Man, those are some expensive tomatoes.

I wonder what $1 million could do. I know it’s not a lot of money, but perhaps permanent community gardens can be put together in public spaces. Maybe volunteers who put the community gardens together could be paid for their efforts. Maybe we could plant some more trees in the city.

Then again, is it so bad? I mean, we get carrots and they get money. Community gardens promote food security and sustainable living, and the space is a great way to build relationships with neighbours.

Maybe there’s a middle ground: “COPE Coun. David Cadman had an alternate suggestion if the province balks: allow the conversions to parkland but freeze the rezoning changes until the developers reapply—and pay.”

Talk back

What do you think? Are developers getting a bad rap for taking advantage of a tax loophole in a way that benefits the urban gardener? Or should they be required to pay the full tax amount on the site?

Further, does Vancouver have enough community gardens? If developers don’t have the tax incentive to develop latent land as gardening space, there’s a real possibility that the city will not see more community gardens developed in these plots. Do we have enough other plots to satisfy demand?

Granville Online invites you to weigh in.

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