Column: Questions and answers about Centennial Field

Directors Notes by Electoral Area C Director Paul Demenok

A number of questions have been raised regarding the proposed purchase of Centennial Field.

In this article, the first in a three-part series, I will provide answers to the most common questions. A public meeting will be held on Sept. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Shuswap Lake Estates Lodge where all questions may be addressed.

Q. Why is the CSRD proposing a new community park in Blind Bay?

A. This was a key recommendation in the Area C Parks Plan which was developed by an independent consultant. The plan, based on comments from hundreds of Area C residents via sounding boards, two online surveys, stakeholder interviews, 200 randomized telephone interviews and six public meetings states, “Blind Bay has a need for more park land and improved amenities for children, youth, families and seniors alike. The existing parkland is small and fragmented and there is not an outdoor space that can accommodate community gatherings and events.” The specific recommendation was, “Acquire and develop a community park (2 to 5 ha) in Blind Bay, ideally along the waterfront that can accommodate desired amenities such as sports fields, walking paths, play features and space for community events.” At the public meetings I recall a number of senior residents asking for a safe, flat area that could be used year-round for walks.

Q. Why was this particular property selected?

A. An independent consultant evaluated several potential properties and provided recommendations. Centennial Field was by far the best option as it’s centrally located, easily accessible, flat and has a terrific location with unobstructed lake views. Another property was seriously considered, and a 50-plus page report was produced outlining pros and cons. Suitable road access is a problem not easily resolved. The land isn’t flat, would require considerable grading, it’s not centrally located and costs to develop it were prohibitive. This report was reviewed in confidence by the CSRD board and staff as all real estate transactions undertaken by local government must by maintained in camera in order to avoid liability issues, to protect privacy and to avoid opportunistic speculation driving the price upwards.

Read more: Letter: Now is the time for CSRD to purchase Centennial Field

Read more: Letter: Questions to CSRD on proposed Centennial Field purchase

Read more: Alternative approval process to proceed for Centennial Field purchase

Q. The property was appraised at $2,066,000, but the price is $2,775,000; why would you pay a premium?

A. At first, I had exactly the same concerns, but my opinion changed after I did some homework. Let’s first appreciate that a property appraisal done on behalf of a purchaser is used as a strategic negotiation tool to lower the final price. Because there were no comparable properties, the appraiser had to calculate a market value using a series of assumptions which did not reflect highest and best use. I believe the price offered of about $291,000 per acre is well below market value as evidenced by the following facts:

• Shuswap Lake Estates previously received a written offer for $320,000 per acre for this property; so, the market value is much higher than our price. Development of higher density residences would eliminate this land from being a park. Thankfully, the owners didn’t feel comfortable proceeding with this, and agreed to sell the property for a lower price, with the covenant that it must always be a park.

• Vacant lots in Blind Bay sell from $75,000 t0 $125,000 per quarter acre, which means the full acreage prices, if you could find them, would be $300,000 to $500,000. These other lots are not flat semi-waterfront properties so they would be worth much less than Centennial Field.

• A property adjoining Centennial Field is assessed at the equivalent of more than $400,000 per acre.

• Discussions with local real estate agents confirmed we are getting a great price on this property.

Please note the additional cost to taxpayers for Centennial Field is actually $1,775,000, as we plan to use $1,000,000 from the Parks Acquisition Reserve Fund to help finance the purchase; so taxpayers will be paying about $186,000 per acre. These funds, which are obtained from developers during subdivision approvals, can only be used to fund park land acquisition, and have sat unused for many years.

Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District

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