The Observer Aug. 8 article “Judge Orders land payment” missed several salient points and some important questions.
For instance: What was the involvement of former mayor, Colin Mayes, and council in removing the subject property out of the ALR without any communication with the newly formed Farming Committee? In what form might our council and city staff have assured SmartCentres that the development would proceed even before a proper environmental assessment was conducted? Remember, as stated by Judge John Savage, “The parties’ principals are sophisticated persons knowledgeable in real estate development.”
An environmental assessment was summarily conducted at the behest (and expense) of several, private citizens groups. These assessments were sufficiently detailed and accurate to trigger the Ministry of Environment to take the unusual step of demanding another “more rigorous” assessment from SmartCentres as well as conducting their own independent report in Dec. 2009.
As a result, the original contentious 48-acre proposal was reduced several times, eventually down to 20 acres with only 16.5 acres useable for retail development. The $16.7 million now required of SmartCentres, plus the cost of all the hearings, open houses and additional court costs (still ongoing) must place the value of this property somewhere in the vicinity of the real estate on Rodeo Drive, Hollywood, or downtown Ginza, Tokyo.
My burning question still remains: Why did it take a small group of concerned citizens, working on their own time and resources to protect one of Salmon Arm’s most valuable assets when we have elected representatives and City staff to supposedly safe guard our community’s interests and that of potential developers?