Graphic of the proposed redevelopment of Duncan Manor. (Courtesy of Duncan Housing Society)

Guest column: To swap or not to swap, that is the question

Will that legacy be to protect and preserve park land or to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”?

By Barry Corrin

The Duncan Housing Society is proposing to build a six-storey building on Centennial Park land — on land where there is a median, grass, picnic table and trees — on green and open space. In order to do this, Duncan Housing Society is requesting a land swap of their lawn bowling land for public city-owned Centennial Park land. If council approves the swap and proposal, the city will then have to pave over more city owned park land and green space, for an access road and additional parking.

To make this decision city council will need foresight, wisdom and courage. They will need to look beyond this moment and see into the future.

There are a number of groups that have an interest in this decision. Council will need to see beyond them all. They will have to see beyond the thousands of people who currently use the park annually, beyond the people in Duncan Manor who need a replacement building, beyond those who say “not in my backyard”, beyond the lawn bowlers and seniors of today and beyond those who want to build housing in the park.

Council has to see beyond those interest groups because more important than any one of them is the larger whole. Council has to address the bigger question of how to build a cohesive, integrated, thoughtfully planned city in which to live. To quote Michelle Staples, “What do we want the city to look like as we move into the future?”

Fortunately, council has the Official Community Plan and the vision, values and principles contained in it to guide them in their task: “to provide…open spaces…to meet existing and future active, healthy lifestyles” and “to provide public open space to minimize the impact of increased density”.

Council will consider the land swap issue on Dec. 13. They will be considering what tomorrow will look like for young families and their children, for the increasing senior population, for those who need affordable housing, for people moving into the high density area beside the park and for the increasing population in general.

If council in their hearts and minds feel that swapping park land in order to build a six-storey building on city owned park land is the right thing to do, then park users and those who value green and open space will be sorely disappointed.

If council decides that swapping park land is not the right thing to do then Duncan Housing Society will have to go back to the drawing board to find an alternative. There are options. Duncan Manor, while perhaps not in the best shape, isn’t going to fall down tomorrow.

It’s up to council to evaluate objectively and to conscientiously recognize the requirements of today while planning for those coming long after us.

Council need not be expedient. Council needs to decide carefully and wisely with an eye on the future needs of our community.

Council’s decision will be a reference point if not a precedent for future councils. Council’s decision will be their legacy to the city and its present and future citizens. Will that legacy be to protect and preserve park land or to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”?

Barry Corrin is a concerned Duncan resident.