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Castlegar could have made more in land sale, BC Ombudsperson finds

The BC Ombudsperson feels the City of Castlegar could have gotten a better price for land sold to a developer for a housing project, according to an ad placed by the city.

The full-page ad in today’s Castlegar News outlines the city’s efforts to increase housing and addresses the controversial sale of the former Brandson Park land to allow for the construction of a 54-unit residential-commercial building.

The sale was the subject of two complaints filed last year with the Ombudsperson’s office, including one that argued the city undervalued the land and sold it for less than it was worth. The final report has not yet been made public, but the city previewed one of its findings in the ad.

It says the city bought 2405 Columbia Avenue on the open market after it had been listed for 18 months, then then accepted an offer to buy the property and an adjacent one at 2404 6th Avenue several months later “for a nominal increase.”

When coming up with a value for the latter property, the city applied the same value per square meter as the market value of 2405 Columbia to satisfy requirements to sell the land at market rate.

The ad says the forthcoming Ombudsperson report will suggest the city could have made more on those lands had an independent appraisal been completed. But the city says there was a potential six-month delay in commercial appraisals at the time.

“Since there was an established market rate for the lands and a desperate need for housing development in Castlegar, the city proceeded with the transaction,” the ad states. “All this information was shared with the public during the public hearing process.”

The two properties, which have since been consolidated, were sold on June 14 last year for $553,900. Two weeks later, the property was assessed at $655,000.

Last year, city council voted 6-1 in favour of the rezoning to clear the way for project, despite strenuous objections from neighbours concerned about the loss of green space. While a park will remain on the site, it will be smaller than the old one.

Nexus Developments is constructing the building dubbed The Park Place in partnership with the Sutherland Group, a company whose holdings include Sutco Transportation. Up to 15 units will be set aside for Sutherland employees while the rest will be placed on the general market.

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