Tag Archives: provincial capital commission

Land sales must be discussed with municipalities

Rezoning rules must apply in PCC selloff, ex-members say
By Kim Westad, Times Colonist February 25, 2012

Two Provincial Capital Commission board members who resigned after the province announced it will sell off undisclosed “surplus” properties say they expect any buyers to follow the same rezoning rules as any other purchaser.

Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said some of the public concern about the sales might be lessened if the province at least made clear that some heritage properties are not on the block. The government has refused to divulge any surplus properties although it has cited downtown parking lots as examples.

“I understand from a real estate perspective that you don’t want to show your hand,” Murdock said. “But at the same time, they could quite easily say, ‘We’re not talking about Crystal Gardens or St. Ann’s Academy.’ That might make people feel a bit calmer about it.”

The B.C. Liberal government announced the sale of surplus Crown land in this week’s budget, saying sales could raise $706 million and allow a balanced budget. Critics say that selling off land in a “fire sale” for a one-time cash infusion is shortsighted and a poor use of public assets.

Murdock and Victoria Coun. Geoff Young quit the PCC board this week in opposition to how the commission had been restructured and how it intends to deal with its properties. Saanich Coun. Nichola Wade also resigned, citing a potential conflict of interest because she is a provincial government employee.

“If the PCC sells a major development site to a private developer then I would expect the city would deal with it at every stage – rezoning, permits, etcetera – exactly as we would for any other developer,” Young said.

That could slow the sale of some surplus property as often developers do not want to close a deal until a rezoning is in place.

Another issue that could delay any quick sales is that many PCC properties would be subject to land title issues with local First Nations. Esquimalt First Nation lawyer Gary Yabsley said it is keeping a close eye on any sales.

Generally, any sale of Crown land triggers a duty to First Nations, even if no specific land claim has been filed.

“The Esquimalt First Nation, and I would assume others in the general region, would be of the view that there are outstanding unresolved land title issues,” Yabsley said.

“Whatever the province does by way of divestiture would immediately trigger Crown obligations in terms of First Nation rights.”

First Nations have aboriginal title interest in provincial and federal Crown land, Yabsley said.

“Case law says repeatedly that that interest puts an onus on the Crown to consult with First Nations if they are going to do anything with the land and it affects the First Nations’ interest in it.”

Selling would be considered to affect an interest, he said. The legal obligations include consultation and accommodation. What form it takes – for example, financial compensation – could vary depending on the property.

“As I understand it, the proposal is for the province to divest itself of hundreds of million of [dollars worth of] land. That’s a significant value in land to which First Nations will invariably say they have an interest,” Yabsley said.

The province has an established system for consulting with First Nations on Crown properties.

Sale of capital’s heritage properties the wrong direction

Two more appointees resign from PCC board
By Kim Westad and Rob Shaw, Time Colonist

Three municipal appointees who have resigned this week from the Provincial Capital Commission may not be replaced on the board that oversees numerous public properties in the region.

Saanich councillors Dean Murdock and Nichola Wade resigned Thursday, a day after Victoria councillor Geoff Young. Wade, who works for the province, said she resigned to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Murdock and Young said they quit in response to the provincial government’s plan to sell off “surplus” provincial assets, including those controlled by the PCC.

PCC chairman Bill Wellburn said the board has been too large for its mandate. “In my view, and the view of all of us at the table, there are probably too many directors,” he said of the 14-person board.

Wellburn said the municipal councillors may not have liked the direction the commission has taken in the last few years, dealing less with properties and more with community outreach.

Murdock and Young both said the plan to sell land to balance the provincial budget was a key factor in their resignations, although Young said he is in favour of some property being sold — such as waterfront parking lots — if it can be put to better use.

Murdock was more adamant. “The recent announcement that Crown-owned properties within the capital will be sold confirms that our region’s heritage properties and assets are at risk,” Murdock wrote in his letter of resignation. “I will not be a participant to either the dismantling of the commission or the sale of our region’s properties, which, in my view, is at odds with the mandate of the commission and a disservice to the residents of the capital region.”

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said he will wait and “see how this all settles before replacing them, if at all.” He said the municipal role in the PCC “seems unclear.”

Six of the 14 board members come from the four core municipalities. Leonard said he’ll talk with mayors of Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt and likely ask to talk to Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong.

The government took control of the PCC last month, including finance and management of sites. Major decisions must now be vetted through Chong’s ministry.

At the legislature, the Opposition NDP slammed Finance Minister Kevin Falcon for what it called a “public asset fire sale” of taxpayer land. Falcon again refused to release a list of properties regarded as surplus.

Victoria-Swan Lake NDP MLA Rob Fleming asked Falcon if the Belleville ferry terminal land was for sale, but instead of answering the finance minister attacked the NDP record of selling government property in the 1990s.

Fleming said he’s not opposed to the sale of properties, as long as the money and property are put to the best use. That isn’t happening with the B.C. LIberals, Fleming said.

The Liberals are dumping the money into one fiscal year as a source of revenue in an election year; they are desperate to prove to the public they have a balanced budget when they don’t, Fleming said.

The PCC hasn’t said which assets are seen as surplus. It owns land along the Trans-Canada Highway, including some near the Galloping Goose Trail, and in Langford near Costco.

Its portfolio also includes the CPR Steamship Terminal Building on Belleville Street, Crystal Garden, St. Ann’s Academy, the Victoria Information Centre and Ship Point.

Resigning from PCC over Province’s plan to sell heritage properties

Two Saanich councillors resign from PCC board over B.C. budget
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Saanich council’s two representatives on the Provincial Capital Commission have resigned following the revelation that the provincial government will sell off millions of dollars worth of surplus provincial land.

Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock tendered his resignation to PCC board chair Bill Wellburn this morning (Thursday). Councillor Nichola Wade also stepped down Thursday morning.

“The recent announcement of the sale of Crown properties, properties in the Capital, confirmed my suspicion and fear that these properties were at risk,” Murdock said. “It’s unclear which properties would be for sale, but it became clear that some of the properties managed by the PCC would be part of that potential sale, and for me, I fundamentally disagree with that direction, and I won’t participate in that process.”

Victoria councillor Geoff Young stepped down from the PCC Wednesday amid similar concerns.

It was learned on Tuesday, as part of the province’s 2012 budget, that the cash-strapped government will put 100 or so properties up for sale to help minimize a projected $969-million deficit.

“It came as a bit of a surprise, although everyone was told we could expect some surprises in it. To me, it’s a measure which I think is a short-term cash infusion at the expense of the long-term enjoyment of these assets.”

For Wade, she says her day job working in the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation could have been a conflict of interest.

“I have, as a provincial government employee, a sworn oath of office to the Crown, and I would not want to be in a position where there would be a conflict with that oath,” she said. “I think things are getting to a point where, with the way things are playing out, there could be a conflict with that oath.”

In Saanich, the eight-hectare Cuthbert Holmes Park is PCC land, leased to the municipality for 99 years for $1. The current lease agreement expires in December 2086.

“There’s no indication that would be one of the properties that would be up for sale – but there is a possibility, and I disagree with that,” Murdock said.

Murdock has sat on the PCC board since 2008. He also voiced concerns in January when it was announced that the PCC would be restructured.

“I made my objections clear to the board chair and the board members that I disagreed with that direction because it put heritage properties the PCC manages at risk,” Murdock said.

When asked why he’d rather resign than stay on the board and be a vocal opponent to the decision, Murdock reiterated that he has voiced his concerns in the past, and he didn’t want to be part of the direction the PCC was “clearly” going.

He informed Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, who appoints councillors to the commission, of his resignation this morning. Wade has sat on the board since December 2011.

The PCC board is made up of 14 directors: six Capital Region councillors and eight appointments by the Lieutenant Governor.