Councillors Ben Issit and Shellie Gudgeon organized the forum. Irwin Henderson presented on elements that might be incorporated into a property sale policy.
Yesterday evening, I attended a public forum on the sale of city owned lands organized by city councillors Ben Isitt and Shellie Gudgeon. Selling city owned land has become controversial recently because of a city council decision to entertain an offer to purchase the land from the Ralmax Group of Companies, which holds a long-term lease on (and an option to purchase) the property.
As far as I can tell, here are two main issues here:
- It’s not clear why the city is considering this offer now. I have seen no justification for considering this offer at this point in time. There have been vague statements to the effect that the city might be liable for costly environmental remediation if and when Ralmax leaves the site. But Ralmax currently has a lease that runs out in 2046, so there doesn’t seem to be much urgency to sell now, since the shipyards are likely to continue operating there for the foreseeable future.
- The city appears to have no policy on disposing of so-called “surplus” land. Without a clear policy, it’s hard to tell how this (or any other city owned property) has been declared surplus, and by what process the sale will take place. This means there is a lack of transparency in city land sales, which tends to erode the public’s confidence in how our public assets are being managed.
Ben Isitt started the meeting saying that Ralmax has thrived at this site for twenty-three years under the long term lease, which will continue until 2046. He said he hasn’t seen a compelling case for selling this land, and indicated that he would like to retain long-term, democratic, public control over the land, with the possibility of the public benefitting from appreciation in its value in the future. Shellie Gudgeon said that she helped organize the meeting because she felt that she lacked sufficient information to decide on the issue without the public’s input.
The floor was opened for comments from the public. Most people spoke out against selling the land, and there was widespread frustration expressed about the decision making process. The general feeling people expressed was that decisions about whether to sell (or consider selling) city owned land should be brought to the public before entertaining offers, rather than in in-camera meetings.
Isitt and Gudgeon then asked Irwin Henderson to present some preliminary research he had conducted about land sale policies in other municipalities. He presented a series of slides, which amounted to an excellent argument for a clear, transparent land sale policy and a formal public process to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard. Over the next couple of weeks, Isitt and Gudgeon said they will be working on developing such a policy for presentation to council, and asked for public input on what to include in it.
You can email your input to them and the rest of council, either on the policy or on this particular land sale at:
An audio recording of the event is posted at Winds of Change.