City looks to boost development with $1 land sale

Prince Albert city council has voted to sell an almost 30,000 square foot parcel of land in the southwest corner of the city to developers Lake Estates on South Hill for $1.

The land was supposed to be used for the nearby storm pond. However, during construction, city administrators determined that the property was not needed.

Lake Estates on South Hill owns the adjacent property to the south. In a letter to council, the developers wrote that the land was necessary “to proceed with a large 40+ unit development.” The development is expected to generate between $70,000 and $75,000 in annual taxes and levies for the city.
Council members who supported the sale said the tax revenue and jobs are badly needed during tough economic times.

“I’m voting in favour of this because I want the $70,000 a year in taxes,” Mayor Greg Dionne said during Monday’s meeting. “I want the jobs. I’ve been out in the trenches and have heard from all the developers and gas stations and restaurants on how slow the economy is. People, we’re not in a slow down. We’re almost stopped.”

“There’s nothing in this report that makes sense to me as to why we wouldn’t move forward with this small piece of land,” said Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who represents the area where the development is located. “It’s a budding new development that’s going to move forward.”

The sale depends on a number of conditions, mainly that Lake Estates obtain a development permit from the city. No agreement has formally been drawn up, although when it does, administrators say it will also contain a specific development timeline.

Craig Guidinger, the City of Prince Albert’s Director of Planning and Development Services, said there are no firm timelines in place as of yet. However, he also said he expected them to move forward as soon as possible.

“I don’t want to put them on the spot, but I know they want to continue moving forward and build as quick as they can,” he said.

Although the majority of council was receptive to the proposal, it generated strong opposition from Couns. Charlene Miller, Terra Lennox-Zepp and Dennis Nowoselsky, who all voted against it.

Sale opponents had several concerns, the main one being that the city wasn’t getting a fair price for the land. Other concerns included the lack of water and sewer services to the property, and the fact that the city employee who handled the file recommended that council not accept the offer.

“I would state that if this land is profitable to a developer, that it would be profitable land to this developer (or) another project,” Lennox-Zepp said. “That’s why someone wants to buy it, because it could turn a profit. My concern is that we may want to consider why our city planning department and, the staff that we pay to have this knowledge, is recommending that we don’t make a sale for $1.”

“I think the developer can still make money, but pay a reasonable price for it,” Nowoselsky added. “Based on that I just will not support it.”

Sale supporters argue that city administrators had to reject the deal because only council can sell land for such a low prince. To help solve that problem, Monday’s resolution also included a line asking admin to draft a new bylaw that would govern the sale of Municipal Reserve Land.

“Since the proposed offering is a departure from standard land pricing, administration is recommending that this offer be denied,” wrote the report’s author, property coordinator Leanne Fyrk. “However, if council chooses to accept the offer, an option has been presented in the ‘options to recommendation’ section of this report.”

Price wise, city officials estimate that the property could be sold anywhere from $29,023 to $136,410. Those numbers are based on per/acre sales data from similar land nearby and in other parts of the city.

Some sale supporters said they’d rather see developers being a new project, rather than wait for a higher bid. Others were concerned no other company would purchase the land because it was surrounded by Lake Estates developments.

“In the long run it’s going to be a benefit to the city in taxes—and those taxes will be paid forever—and in jobs and development and making an area more beautiful in West Hill,” Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick said. “As I said, I wish it was in my ward, but I’ll support this because it’s going to be what I think is best for this entire city.”

“If this developer doesn’t buy it, no developer’s going to buy it, because it’s 100 per cent landlocked around their property,” Dionne added. “We can’t even get a road to that piece of land, so if they don’t buy it, nobody buys it.”

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