Dispute over city land sale leaves local non-profit puzzled

Herald file photo.

A Prince Albert non-profit is wondering what it will take to purchase a piece of city property they previously tried to buy more than five years ago.

KIN Enterprises Inc., a Prince Albert organization that employs roughly 190 individuals with disabilities and 70 additional staff, is trying to consolidate their operation on 40th Street East in Prince Albert. To do that, they’ll need to purchase two city-owned lots, but city council has declined because KIN isn’t offering enough money.

KIN Enterprises board chair Kerry Receveur was at Monday’s executive committee meeting to make the organization’s case. He said he’s disappointed with how the city has handled the issue, especially since they’re been so eager to work with for-profit developers.

“We were not satisfied at all,” Receveur said when contacted on Tuesday. “We’ve been trying to purchase a parcel of land since 2012 and have met absolutely nothing but resistance from the city administration on it. That land has been sitting vacant since before 2012. They keep trying to put pressure on us to make bigger and bigger offers.”

KIN operates a number of programs, including wood product manufacturing—which includes everything from furniture to shipping crates—and wire recycling for SaskPower. Their current operation on 15th Street East was built roughly five decades ago, but is now surrounded by residential housing.

Receveur said many local residents want them to relocate, and added that the organization receives a steady stream of complaints about smell and noise. Even if they didn’t want to relocate, the current building is 50 years old and needs to be replaced soon. KIN already owns a few properties on 40th Street East, so moving there would help make their operation more efficient.

Previously, KIN had offered as much as $600,000 for the property in question, and at one point even gave the city a deposit in hopes of purchasing the property. That deposit was returned after the city refused the sale.

After seeing the city make deals with other developers, KIN has offered $5 for the 3.2 acres of available land.

“We see the city making deals, offering a $700,000 grant to pay for the infrastructure improvement for the new hotel in the city—a new hotel and liquor store—but yet they won’t work with us at all,” Receveur said.

Mayor Greg Dionne said they city is more than willing to work with KIN enterprises, they just aren’t willing to cut a deal on this particular property. Previous deals with local hoteliers to build a Best Western Premium Hotel, or with developers to build seniors housing in the West Hill neighbourhood, were done because they generate taxes, he explained. KIN won’t generate the tax revenue those organizations do, so they won’t be getting a discount.

“When that project is built, in that first year we’re going to get $70,000 in taxes,” Dionne said when asked about the $1 land sale to Lake Estates on South Hill. “In this (KIN’s) case, once we give up the land, we get nothing. That’s the difference. We’ve got to take care of the city first. At the end of the day, our goal is to keep taxes low and we keep taxes low by generating taxes.”

As for the future, Dionne said it’s up to KIN Enterprises to initiate discussions with the city about another offer.

Part of the city’s hesitation also stems from a partnership created with Prince Albert’s Broda Group back in 2012. Both Broda and the city owned land on 40th Street, and banded together to develop the property for sale, a move that helped cut down on costs for things like installing water and sewage lines. However, both Broda and the city also agreed to fix the prices on their lots so that they weren’t in competition with each other.

Prince Albert City Manager Jim Toye didn’t arrive on the scene until 2014, two years after the agreement started. At that point, he said the city was already committed to asking for a certain price for the land.

“We were pretty much tied to prices by then,” Toye said following Monday’s meeting. “We didn’t have the capacity to give reductions on what the posted price was.”

That’s little consolation for KIN, who say they’ve offered fair market value for the property in the past and have been declined.

Receveur even said they’ve filed an access to information request with the city to see what the partnership with Broda actually contains. He added that if the city doesn’t sell this property, KIN will probably stay at their current location for another 10-20 years before eventually moving outside the city limits.

However, Receveur also said KIN has had a good working relationship with Broda in the past. He’s hoping to have discussions with the developers to smooth things out before continuing talks with the city.