Powell River resident George Orchiston presented his findings into the Sino Bright International School land purchase at City of Powell River Committee of the Whole (COTW) on Tuesday, February 19.
The $300,000 sale of a 10-acre parcel of land by Powell River Waterfront Development Corporation (PRWDC) has been in dispute since the deal was announced by PRWDC president Wayne Brewer to COTW on Tuesday, February 5.
Sino Bright is an international high school and had previously looked at locating its school on another parcel of property adjacent to Brooks Secondary School, but the provincial Agricultural Land Commission turned down an application to exclude the property from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Orchiston questioned the legality of the sale but, according to mayor Dave Formosa, the city has been informed by its lawyers that its conduct in the matter is based on solid legal grounds.
City chief administrative officer (CAO) Russell Brewer said the legal opinion will be made public, if possible.
Orchiston contended that the sale was in contravention of the partnership agreement between the city and its wholly owned PRWDC. He said extreme bias was demonstrated by PRWDC in favour of Sino Bright, a for-profit business, resulting in taxpayers being denied any knowledge of the intended sale or opportunity to make a competitive bid on the proposed subdivided lot.
“At no time prior to the signing of the agreement did the PRWDC consult city council regarding the intended disposition of the land or the terms and conditions of the said agreement as required by the partnering agreement and memorandum of understanding between the PRWDC and the city,” said Orchiston.
Formosa said the sale was done at arm’s length from the city and Russell Brewer said it did not have to approve the Sino Bright sale.
According to the articles of incorporation, if PRWDC intends to dispose of land or improvements previously transferred to the company by the city, the directors will cause the company to comply with any requisites under the Local Government Act to such a disposition that would otherwise apply if the city were making the disposition.
Formosa said he knew of the negotiations.
“Negotiations were going on,” said Formosa.”That's a good location and they were dealing with the waterfront development corporation but as for the amount and when the offer came, I found out that we have an accepted offer which we then in turn discussed in-camera.”
Orchiston concluded his remarks with three requests: city council require that a professional appraisal of the proposed 10-acre parcel be done prior to the city agreeing to any disposition of this property, whether due to a public or private offer; that prior to any sale of the land to Sino Bright council provide the public with the opportunity to make a purchase offer; and that council request and/or accept the resignations of the directors of PRWDC.
The parcel is part of an 80-acre property in Townsite below Brooks with an appraised value of $300,000 for the entire lot. According to Wayne Brewer, the corporation has obtained an updated appraisal opinion for the specific 10 acres being sold, confirming the agreed sale price is at current market value of $30,000 per acre. According to him, the corporation is joined at the hip to the city.
“When I was appointed to the board in 2016, it was reporting to the city through the chief financial officer,” said Wayne Brewer. “Now at the city’s direction we report to city’s manager of economic development. No meeting is held, no decision is made without the city’s involvement every step of the way, and I must point out that the partnership agreement specifically uses the word ‘city’ not ‘council.’”
He added that PRWDC is 100 per cent in compliance with the partnership agreement and the contract with Sino Bright is legal.
According to city manager of economic development Scott Randolph, his role is to provide oversight and administrative support but PRWDC runs its own affairs.
Russell Brewer said staff will bring back some more information and answer most of these questions in the next two weeks.