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Brain injury society applies to use City of Powell River property for gardening facility

City will consider entering into a five-year licence of occupation agreement
RELOCATING OPERATION: Powell River Brain Injury Society wants to enter into an agreement with City of Powell River for use of a quarter-acre of land near the society’s offices to move its gardening operation.

City of Powell River will consider entering into a five-year licence of occupation agreement with Powell River Brain Injury Society for use of city land for a gardening facility.

At the November 16 committee of the whole meeting, city director of properties, development and communications Scott Randolph brought forward a proposal that would allow the society to use the land with a no-cost lease.

Randolph said the proposal is an item that came before the committee in August as a result of a conversation about a lease for the city property, located near and behind the brain injury society’s facility on Duncan Street. Randolph said the society was seeking a five-year lease for its community garden because it needs to be relocated from where it is currently located, right behind the society’s office.

“They’ve been told by the property owner that they are going to need to move the garden because there are future commercial developments coming to that property, so they need to find a new home within the next year,” said Randolph. “The initial discussions with staff were about a lease and they wanted it to be at no cost. As that is outside of our lease rate bylaw, [brain injury society executive director] Debbie Dee was advised she needed to make a delegation to council and ask for that concession, because it would need council approval.”

Randolph said after Dee’s presentation to the committee, councillors gave direction for staff to put an agreement together. He said the agreement is for a five-year term for the cost of one dollar. He said the agreement is not a lease, but a licence of occupation, to avoid the cost of having to have the property surveyed and a reference plan developed.

“What we’re talking about is a no-cost use of land that has, as you are aware, landfill contamination on it,” said Randolph. “It is a vacant piece of land and there is currently no use for it.

“The garden is important to the operation, not only for programming and skills training for the society’s clients, but it also provides fresh produce to the Powell River food bank. It has a number of different pluses to it.”

Randolph said because of the environmental contamination on the property, the agreement is very specific in its language. He said this is based on the advice given by environmental consultants. This includes only disturbing the soil to 0.6 metres from the ground surface, and that the licensee shall only use raised structures to create, operate and maintain the community garden.

Use at own risk

Randolph said the agreement also stipulates the licence area has environmental contamination that predates the licence and the licensee agrees they will use the licence area at their own risk.

“For certainty, the licensee acknowledges and agrees that the city will not be liable in respect to any loss of life, personal injury, damage to property or loss of property suffered by the licensee arising out of the preexisting contamination on the licence area,” said Randolph.

The land is 0.27 acres in size and under the current lease rate bylaw, the estimated lease cost on the land would normally be $1,155.66 plus GST per annum. He said with the proposed agreement, about $3,000 in surveying fees have been saved by using a licence of occupation instead of a lease.

Committee of the whole chair George Doubt said the proposal seemed like a good idea.

Councillor Rob Southcott said it didn’t seem like there was any other use for this land.

“There’s no other long-term thoughts of what this land could be used for,” added Southcott.

Randolph said the city has a number of pieces of land throughout this area. The dog park sits on one of them, he said. The city does not have any other uses for the land until there is a certificate of compliance, having dealt with remediation issues, added Randolph.

“We are limited in our choices for the use of the land,” said Randolph. “The disturbing of the soil is a big issue, which we addressed in the licence of occupation agreement. This is a good use. It addresses food security, it supports local agencies and those that need help, and skills training.”

The committee gave unanimous consent to send the matter to council for adoption.