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General News · 3rd September 2014
Noba Anderson
When the Strathcona Regional District board met last week and purchased the Whaletown Commons, the entire matter became public record and the latest staff report is now available to the public. This report outlines all the financial details and includes all public comment received regarding the purchase. It is well worth reading these letters as many Cortes Islanders are very articulate about their perspective on the Commons. Just a thanks to most of who who copied me on your letters when you submitted them mostly in June. This allowed me to respond to you directly, ask questions and clarify my understanding of your position. Unfortunately for me and those of you, including the petitioners, who wrote to the board, or in some cases directly to all my colleagues and did not copy me, given that the report was received and the decision was made in closed session, I was not at liberty to contact you to discuss with you your position before we needed to make a decision. I regret this and thank all of you who wrote and shared your p[onion. The full report can be found at http://srdws.strathconard.ca/Agenda_minutes/SRDBoard/BRD/28-Aug-14/20140825-Hotsenpiller-Purchase-of-Whaletown-Commons-COMBINED.pdf.

There were two key resolutions that were unanimously passed by the board. The first was for the SRD to purchase the Commons for $839,000 plus applicable taxes, and the second was to direct that a temporary borrowing bylaw be prepared to authorize short term borrowing for up to 5 years to finance the amount required to complete the purchase of the Whaletown Commons, less the amount contributed by reserves, Whaletown Commons Society and other community donors.

Some of the highlights of the report verbatim are as follows:

As the board is aware, negotiations have been ongoing regarding the Regional District’s acquisition of this property. They have been protracted and difficult discussions with a number of approaches being considered and rejected. Nevertheless, they have matured to the point that the Regional District is in receipt of a Contract of Purchase and Sale offer from Island Timberlands GP Ltd for the Whaletown Commons at a price of $839,000. Given the protracted discussions between the parties over the last five years, and the compromises provided by both the Regional District and IT, this is an actionable offer and it is the recommendation of staff to purchase the property.

The Regional District has undertaken two previous appraisals, the last of which was $826,000. The current offer is close enough to this value that, given the rise in the timber markets, is can be considered a fair market based value for the property.

ON June 17, staff organized and attended a community meeting in the potential acquisition of the Whaletown Commons. It was very well attended with over 120 community members in attendance. … The meeting was then turned over to the community where overwhelming support for the initiative was provided for a variety of reasons including the Commons as a central community space, ecological values, educational values and tourism values. Out of the sixty speakers, there were approximately five negative comments regarding the in-camera negotiations process and the cost for acquisition of the property at and around the price point that the negotiates have been focused upon.

Given the length of time that the negotiations process has been underway and the significant amounts of time that both parties have dedicated to this process, it is the view of staff that this is the most realistic and best offer that the Regional District will receive. If the offer is rejected, it is recommended that negotiations for the property cease for the foreseeable future.

Financial Implications: Costs: $839,000 plus $15,000 conveyance for a total of $854,000.
Funding Sources: Community parks capital works reserve (from the SRD) $483,107, Community Parks Parkland Acquisition Fund (from the SRD) $88,420, Whaletown Commons Society $60,000 (they were able to raise a little more than that), SRD Borrowing $222,473 for a total of $854,000.

The Regional District has been receiving correspondence, both in support and in opposition to the purchase of the land since the Board directed that a public meeting be held to inform the public Those letters are attached for review.

In Summary, the direct letters to the Regional District… show approximately 121 individuals supporting the acquisition of the Whaletown Commons and 16 individuals opposed. Some individuals have also included financial contributions with their correspondence. The Regional District is also in receipt of a petition provided by Ms. XXX, with a total of 112 signatures in opposition to the acquisition of the land, or opposing the land acquisition without first obtaining elector assent. It is also attached for review.

If you have any further questions or comment, please feel free to contact me. We will be planning a formal celebration of the purchase of the Whaletown Commons as park in October. Stay tuned.

In Gratitude, Noba Anderson
250-935-0320, directorcortesisland.com