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City of Powell River mayor forms property committee

Group will look at prospects of offering two large parcels of land to developers
City of Powell River mayor Ron Woznow has formed a standing committee of three elected and three non-elected members to look at whether two city-owned properties should be put up for sale or lease to provide housing opportunities in the city.

City of Powell River mayor Ron Woznow has formed a standing committee on city land utilization to recommend to council whether two city-owned properties should be made available to developers.

At the April 18 city council meeting, Woznow said as mayor, he formed the standing committee to look specifically at the two properties, referenced as properties 23 and 24 in the city’s land management strategy.

“I’m pleased to announce that the committee of six has been established,” said Woznow.

The committee, which had its first meeting on April 22, is comprised of Woznow as chair, with city councillors Rob Southcott and Jim Palm, plus non-elected individuals Al Austin, John Spick and Dagmar Claussen.

Woznow said the committee will report back to council, hopefully within two months, bringing forward recommendations to tender these two properties so they can be developed to add additional housing in Powell River.

Councillor Trina Isakson said the terms of reference referenced two properties in particular. She said she believed that the property 23 referred to is near the Penticton Trails by Nootka Street and Penticton Street, and that property 24 referred to a forested area between Toba and Tofino streets. She asked if those were the two and Woznow said that was correct.

“These are two very specific properties from a big list,” said Isakson. “I am wondering where the impetus for those two properties came from. Have you been in conversations with any prospective developers on those two properties?” asked Isakson.

Woznow said in 2021, the city hired a consultant at a cost of $40,000 and they prepared a detailed report and indicated the potential for housing on those properties. He said that was the gist of why those two were selected. Woznow said he had not been in conversation with developers regarding those properties.

Councillor George Doubt said Woznow was using his prerogative as mayor to form this standing committee and make the appointments. He said there was no voting to be done.

Doubt said he has a concern, and has heard a concern from a member of the city’s advisory committee on city-owned properties that this is a duplication of effort, and that there will be two land-related committees asking the same group of staff people to provide them information.

“I know if anything comes back out of this standing committee, it is going to have to come back to council to make a decision on what we do and determine whether or not we actually want to put those properties up for tender, for either lease or sale,” said Doubt. “The other concern I have is that I hope we are going to expect that people will avoid any conflict of interest from people who decide to buy this property. People on the committee should not have a relationship with anyone, or a partnership, or a commercial link to anyone who comes to purchase those properties after the committee makes a decision and they are made available.”

Woznow said he could assure Doubt that from what he knows, the concerns are unfounded.

Councillor Jim Palm said he supported Woznow’s initiative because, as has been discussed, the three council members had met with director of planning services Jason Gow and chief administrative officer Lisa Bhopalsingh regarding the properties.

“We had a very good discussion and came to the determination that one thing that is deterring developers to show up on our doorstep to look at various parcels, is that there is a lot of work that has to be done to get those properties in a place in order to make those developers more aware of what they are up against,” said Palm. “By focusing solely on these two properties, which were cherry-picked as being able to be fast-tracked, we certainly didn’t have any discussion with regards to sale or who might be involved in the purchase. This is something to put a template in place in regard to all our properties, where staff has the tools to make developers aware of what they are facing when they come forward to put expressions of interest in place.

“I wholeheartedly support this move, especially in light of our double-digit tax increases this year, and perhaps more to come in the future. We have to find sources of revenue, we have an abundance of land, and the sooner we can move in this direction to help our strained coffers, the better off this community will be.”

The Nootka Street property is 51.14 acres in size and the Tofino Street property is 20.47 acres in size.

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