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Native Band Says City Pulled a Fast One

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A Native American band claims city officials in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond dropped the ball on trying to have a piece of property removed from the region's agricultural land reserve, forcing the band to sell it to the city at below market value, "under duress, and to mitigate its loss."

The Musqueam Indian Band and developer Garden City Limited Partnership claim the city of Richmond signed a memorandum of understanding governing the land's use back in 2005. It was based on the property's being removed from the agricultural land reserve, to be used in part for public parks and amenities, including a possible trade and convention center, with the rest slated for development by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs claim it was an "implied" term of the deal that the city would "not do anything to hinder the removal of the lands from the [agricultural land reserve] or to frustrate Musqueam's interests in the development of the lands."

But the band says the city failed to respond to requests from the province's Agricultural Land Commission for information about the removal application, and the commission refused to remove the land from the reserve as a result.

Then the city made an unsolicited offer to buy the lands "for significantly less than the value of the lands were they to be developed as agreed," according to the complaint.

The band says that although it never released the city from the original 2005 deal, "accepted the offer under duress, and in order to mitigate its loss." It seeks declaratory judgment and damages for breach of contract, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

Plaintiffs are represented by Maria Morrellato of Mandell Pinder.

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