City approves sale of parkland with covenants

The transaction for a piece of land from the City of Prince Rupert to the Bryton Group has moved forward

This property on Graham Avenue was sold to the Bryton Group last Monday.

The transaction for a piece of land from the City of Prince Rupert to the Bryton Group, which some residents have called a ‘fire sale’, has gone ahead.

The much-discussed piece of designated parkland on Graham Avenue was given first, second and third reading on the removal of the ‘parkland’ dedication and sale approval after a lengthy alternate approval process, which had 337 residents sign in opposition to the sale, which some believed to be vital as a playing space for children, and also believed the price was 10 times too little based on surrounding property values. The seven metre wide, L-shaped property located at the end of Graham Avenue was sold for $21,000, a figure based on an independent appraisal review.

“By selling this we add additional value to a lot that’s going to be trapped, and there would be additional units [to a development on a Bryton Group-owned consolidated site] which means more tax revenue for the community,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain during Monday, July 25’s council session.

Opposition to the sale came in the form of close to 10 residents from the neighbourhood voicing their displeasure in council at the sale price, the uncertainty regarding a potential condominium development at the end of the street, the loss of public access to the site, the timing of the announcement with several residents on vacation and a potential strain on water and sewer lines.

“The price of that parkland is a joke,” said resident Ken Maclean last Monday.

Additional Rupert residents chimed in, including Will Spat, who spoke of the value of keeping the land in city hands.

“To suggest that the city needs to give away its parkland in order for this development to take place just means that you’ve got the wrong developer and council needs to take a long, hard look at safeguarding public assets and realize that this city is just going to get more and more bankrupt unless you can unlock the value of public lands,” said Spat.

During the alternate approval process, the 337 signatures were not enough to reach the threshold (866) to stop the sale of the parkland – a process necessary when selling land designated as such.

Coun. Wade Niesh described the land as a drainage ditch and said the value of the property came in at $21,000 because it is located on a cliff edge and nothing can be built on strictly that property.

“Lots of people think this could be cheap and it could be cheap, but you also have to understand that this land is not developable on its own,” said Niesh.

“To me it’s about generating revenue … If we do this, it would allow six more units for development, equalling $30,000 more in taxes per year.”

Mayor Brain echoed the sentiment that the piece of land is not suitable for any kind of play space, let alone a park.

“I don’t know if I’d have my kids playing near the edge of a cliff,” he said.

“Unfortunately somebody decided to designate this parkland … and I’ve been down there many times. Even when I was down there growing up on Graham, I never went down there and played and I don’t know why I would. It’s very dangerous.”

Coun. Gurvinder Randhawa and Coun. Barry Cunningham agreed with the sale, but stated that the city could have gotten more for the property, considering the value would be elevated with an adjoining, developable piece of land.

Mayor Brain also outlined the rights of the developers, who would be able to build a condominium project to a maximum of nine metres tall and 75 units per hectare already because of the property’s RM2 (multiple family residential) zoning.

“The developers don’t have to come back to council to show what’s going to be built as long as it fits within our guidelines and our permits. They already have the zoning they need,” said the mayor, adding that he is encouraging the Bryton Group to build a development concept similar to one that was proposed previously but that owner sold the property years ago.

Cunningham and Coun. Joy Thorkelson proposed attaching a covenant to the sale requiring that a development permit be acquired for the consolidated land by Dec. 31, 2017, construction be complete by Dec. 31, 2019, it must provide wheelchair accessibility and have 30 per cent of the units be designated for seniors.

The seniors’ housing aspect was particularly emphasized by Royal LePage managing broker Keith Lambourne as being crucial for the city, with a severe lack of downsizing options for empty nesters.

Coun. Blair Mirau opposed the covenant, saying it was too late in the process to attach such a stipulation. The covenant was approved by council by all members except Mirau. Coun. Nelson Kinney was absent. The subsequent removal of the parkland dedication and sale of the property was unanimously approved with Kinney absent.

Should the covenant requirements not be met, the City of Prince Rupert has the right to take back the land at the sale price minus 20 per cent for administrative costs.