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Proposed parkland sale divides Hillier and Youden

By Chris Lewis | Oct. 8, 2020

A June resolution regarding the sale of town land came back up for discussion at CBS council Tuesday with councillors Rex Hillier and Kirk Youden agreeing to disagree over how the matter was handled.

The June resolution was for the sale of a piece of park land on Kirkston Street. Hillier said that an adjacent resident had come to the Town asking to buy a section of the playground and park in that area. Council was willing to go ahead with it and the motion for the sale was carried.

However, the subsequent offers made by the resident were not up to par for the Town and were turned down. Following a committee of the whole meeting, a recommendation was made to take that piece of property off the market.

This potential sale of land, Hiller said, is something he had taken issue with right from the get-go.

“I can’t really see a reason why we would want to sell park land, and nobody around the table has been able to tell me ‘This is why we need to sell this property,’” Hillier said. “I think there’s a principle there. We’ve got a park down on Kirkston, and there are municipalities everywhere crying out for green space and we’ve been taking offers on this piece of green space that is actually a part of the playground.”

Hillier allowed the Town has in the past sold small pieces of property to adjacent land owners – land that would have been of little use to anyone else. This piece of land, however, is part of a park, he stressed.

Hillier added that it borders on an open space conservation area, with Fowler’s Brook flowing right beside it.

“It’s just a natural fit that part of this park would transition into that open space conservation area, with the option for trails and so on down Fowler’s Brook and into Buckingham (Drive),” he arged.

Hillier said the property had originally been bought by the residents of Ocean Glen Estates when they originally purchased their building lots, and part of the funding that went into the lots also went into the piece of property that would eventually be park land.

“I haven’t told anyone, but I’m not sure if anyone’s told anybody from Ocean Glen that we were about to sell a part of the park that was paid for with good money,” Hillier said. “There are 150 potential lots in that area coming from Buckingham south to Ocean Glen. What a fabulous spot for those two neighbourhoods to meet than at this park, with a system of trails along Fowler’s Brook tying in the neighbourhoods. Now, we’re going to sell part of that park? It just doesn’t make sense. There’s a principle there. I didn’t like it when we started, and I still don’t like it.”

To that, councillor Kirk Youden said he understood where Hillier was coming from, but that council voted to sell excess land, and excess land is in no shortage around CBS.

“With residents, if they need additional land, then we provide them the opportunity to buy it. The park is developed in that area, and staff have identified it as excess capacity. We approved, as a council, that we would look at it,” Youden said.

Still, Youden said he did not agree with selling the land at the offered price, but still would have let the negotiation go on a bit longer to see if they could get an agreeable sum for it.

Youden asserted that selling excess land is not a new concept, and neither is selling pieces of park land as has been done in the past, specifically in Kelligrews and the Ocean Breeze subdivision.

“How did you vote on that, councillor Hillier?” Youden questioned, to which Hillier responded that he did not know.

“I’d just like to be consistent with our ability to do it,” said Youden. “We asked staff if it’s excess or not, and they agreed. Councillor Hillier has the right to disagree with that, but that’s the process that we’ve identified as a council, and we follow that.”

Councillor Darrin Bent said the offers for the land were simply not acceptable, but he had not yet counted out the possibility of eventually coming to an agreeable cost for the land.

Still, he supported the motion to take the land off the market, suggesting that it would be in the interest of the Town in the long run to retain it.

Closing off the debate, Hillier admitted he had been hesitant to speak about costs, simply because it was not about costs. He said it was about selling park land.

“This property is valued at something over $30,000,” Hillier pointed out. “We spent over a million dollars on a piece of property to build a park some time ago, and now we were going to sell a piece of park somewhere else. My question is then, why is it that we pay fair market value for residential land to turn into a park, but don’t pay fair market value for park land to turn into residential? I’ll leave it at that.”

That did not end the debate, however.

Youden said the Town, generally speaking, does not encourage the development of parks directly behind existing lots and homes.

That, he said, is because of ongoing complaints and problems that sometimes stem from such developments.

Hillier disagreed with that, stating the property in question was not directly behind a residential property.

“This property runs almost the full length of the side yard of this resident’s property,” he said.

At this point, Deputy Mayor Richard Murphy, who was chairing the meeting in Mayor Terry French’s absence, declared the debate over.

The motion to pull the property from the market was carried, with Youden being the lone councillor voting against it.

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