Wesbrook basketball court cancelled again after ‘above and beyond normal opposition’ from residents

A project to build a basketball court in Wesbrook residence area has come to a halt again, after the project's resumption earlier this year.

According to a report issued by the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA), the UBC Development Permit Board deferred the project and the UNA withdrew the project application after hearing concerns from residents of Wesbrook residence area.

The basketball court was first set to be built near Webber House in November but due to noise concerns from the residents of the building, the location for the court was moved 30 metres west. The UNA submitted a revised building permit application with the court’s new location to the Development Permit Board in February, who sought more community feedback.

The court was intended to be a temporary amenity and be replaced by an elementary school in an estimated 10 years. 

203 people filled out online comment forms, of which 132 voiced opposition to the construction of the court and 71 voiced support for it. 

The primary reasons for opposition were noise concerns, loss of open green space and the potential for the court to attract competitive players.

UNA Chief Administrative Officer Sundance Topham found public feedback on this project "went above and beyond normal opposition."

"I've worked in local government and have been involved in contentious projects before, but the actions, whether it was kind threats or negative comments posted during the public process ... was a little bit beyond what I'd witnessed in the past," he said.

Supportive feedback included a need for sporting amenities for older children and teenagers, a desire for more sporting amenities in the area and the court becoming a place for community members of all ages to meet, according to the report.

Further study required

Carole Jolly, director of Campus and Community Planning, said the UBC Development Permit Board considered community feedback alongside the technical performance of the project. The board decided that additional study of the project was required to make a decision, deferring it back to the UNA. 

Rather than continue, the UNA decided to not go further with the application. This would have been the second study of the project conducted. An earlier analysis found that sound levels might exceed the nighttime standards.

Jolly said the decision to continue the permitting process ultimately rests with the UNA.

Yet, Eagle Glassheim, a UBC professor and a UNA board member, said he believes that the unclear instructions about further actions from the UBC Development Permit Board led the UNA to withdraw the application. 

“The UNA was being asked to answer to concerns about noise and maybe other … concerns but without any indication of what actually it would take in order for the Development Permit Board to approve the application,” said Glassheim. 

Topham echoed Glassheim’s view, and reccomended the UNA not advance the project.

Glassheim added that the UNA could update the proposal and conduct another noise study, but that the updates would not guarantee community buy-in. 

“It was clear that the opponents of the basketball court would not be satisfied by any changes to the proposal other than moving the court somewhere else absolutely,” he said.  

Currently, there is an ongoing petition to resume the process of constructing the basketball court in Wesbrook residence area.

Despite that, Richard Watson, the chair of the UNA Board of Directors believes that the project will not restart soon.

“I can't imagine our project … restarting within the current year or anything like that. I guess in a few years from now, maybe [it will start], that's a possibility.”