Just over a year ago, the City of Nanaimo said it was too broke to Save Linley Valley West. Then last week, Council announced that they were considering spending up to $9 million in a series of option agreements which would see a portion of Linley Valley West transferred to the City as parkland.
Is this a carefully crafted plan to make the issue of Linley Valley West disappear before the upcoming election?
The Option Agreement:
Option agreements between the various owners and the City of Nanaimo have been set up. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the land will be bought. It just means that from now until the end of 2014, the land owners can’t sell to anyone else except the City of Nanaimo. For their inconvenience, the City of Nanaimo is obliged to pay an option fee, whether or not they decided to buy the land.
What is the option fee? Considering the costs of developing this land have been subsidized by the taxpayers of Nanaimo, is it fair to ask them to pay more money to these people?
If the Option is not exercised within the time set, the option and agreement shall be null and void and no longer binding upon the parties.
How much is Linley Valley worth?
Before the Official Community Plan was amended, Linley Valley West was not included within the Urban Containment Boundary. It was rezoned from AR1 and AR2 to residential in 2011 which allowed for single family dwellings on the property, resulting in a substantial increase in land value and greater profits for the developer.
Mount Benson Enterprises, owned by Norman Blattgerste, acquired 5701 Vanderneuk (96.62 acres) and the adjacent property 5600 Vanderneuk (43 acres) in 2002 for $884,000.
In 2012, the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria made a presentation to Nanaimo Council suggesting that it was possible for the City of Nanaimo to acquire Linley Valley West without having to pay market value. This could be done by rezoning the area with a ‘parks and open spaces’ designation, PRC-1, which doesn’t allow for residential development.
A month after the presentation, the City of Nanaimo purchased the house at 5775 Vanderneuk Road to be converted to a future waste-water station. The price was $425,000, the appraised value of the property. What’s happened to that? Was it ever used or is it sitting empty?
The 2013 assessment for the remaining land at 5701 Vanderneuk is $4,797,000, a 768.5% increase, almost 8 times its initial purchase price. It’s too bad that area is no longer available as parkland. Of the four properties comprising Linley Valley West, the highest native plant diversity was recorded in 2012 at 5701 Vanderneuk Road (93 species) before the destruction of the wetlands.
According to the City of Nanaimo press release, the property costs are:
- 3518 Hillside Ave (3.5 million)
- 5260 Tanya Dr (2 million)
- 5600 Vanderneuk Rd & 3842 Stronach Ave ($2 million)
- 3651 Rock City Rd ($130,000)
Linley Valley Drive
The City’s has put the first section of Linley Valley Drive out for tender for $1.7 million the road so far will be 850 feet long and 50 feet wide with room for bus and bike lanes. Road construction is planned to last throughout the summer. Linley Valley Drive is planned to be a major thoroughfare connecting Turner, Rock City and Burma Roads.
Once again the taxpayer is lifting a larger load in this development.
Councillor Johnstone asked at an earlier Council meeting how they plan to put the road through the wetland area behind Oliver Woods to connect Linley Valley Drive to Rutherford, could they maybe elevate the road? Good question. Does anyone have the answer?
Mount Benson Developments is still suing “Other Persons” for trespassing onto its property. When will that court case be resolved? Why did the City not listen to concerned citizens earlier and purchase this land for a wetland park?
Below is a map showing the Linley Valley Park ‘Option Agreement’ areas in light blue and the grey area is ‘Option to Purchase’ and the light green area is ‘Future Park’.