The recently announced Sino Bright deal to purchase land in Powell River for the development of an international school is on the verge of collapse.
“I have not heard anything official, but I have been put on notice that council is supposed to be receiving a letter,” said mayor Dave Formosa. “I haven't seen it, and the letter is that they want to back out of the sale of the purchase of the property. That's all I know.”
The Peak has learned the letter, expected to be addressed to Powell River Waterfront Development Corporation (PRWDC), will inform the corporation and the city that Sino Bright is backing out of purchasing 10 acres of property below Brooks Secondary School for $300,000.
Since the sale was announced by PRWDC president Wayne Brewer, there has been an outcry from some circles about the transparency of the process that led to the agreement.
Delegations have appeared before City of Powell River council asking questions about the relationship between the city and its wholly owned waterfront development corporation, perceptions of back-room deals and conspiracies, the legality of the transaction and the $30,000 per acre appraised value of the property.
Formosa said he is totally disappointed after investing about four years on bringing Sino Bright to Powell River and raised the spectre of racism being a contributing cause to the deal falling through.
“The prejudice makes me angry,” said Formosa. “There's definitely a prejudice when you start looking at some of the stuff people are saying that this is being bought by, I don't know, the Communist Party. These people are Canadians.”
At Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, March 5, Brewer, who has been at the centre of the issue, went so far as to say that the deal is falling through, in part, because of racism.
Brewer said in his remarks that the purchaser of the property is a BC-registered Canadian company, owned by Canadian citizens since the early 1990s.
“Yet repeatedly on social media, the purchaser is described as being the communist Chinese government,” said Brewer. “I call this a racist smear.”
One member of council, Maggie Hathaway, said she has interpreted some of the social media comments as racist.
“I have seen it, I read it and I'm really disappointed in some of the racist comments that have been made,” said Hathaway at a recent Committee of he Whole. “Some of those comments are really, really disappointing. It's just disappointing for people to be responding that way.”
Formosa said the city is doomed if it is unable to attract economic development to Powell River in the nature of education. He said he hopes Sino Bright stays and Powell River does not lose it to another community.
“What else can we attract?” he said. “Or is it, ‘we don't like the colour of their skin,’ or the cloak and dagger folk get out there and think there's some conspiracy at city hall?”