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Victoria council to consider sale of industrial waterfront properties in Vic West

May 01 2012
Area where Victoria council is considering selling property 

Area where Victoria council is considering selling property

Photograph by: Staff , timescolonist.com (April 30, 2012)

Victoria city council has agreed to consider selling four city-owned industrial waterfront properties in Vic West valued at about $17 million.

The Ralmax Group is the potential buyer.

But Coun. Ben Isitt says the move is premature and that the city should ask residents whether they have any interest in selling city owned lands before even entertaining any discussions.

The lands in question are at 203, 211, 327 and 345 Harbour Road.

Ralmax holds long-term leases until 2045 on three of the four properties - 211, 327 and 345 Harbour Road - home to Point Hope Shipyard. The company has been negotiating a lease for 203, the lot immediately to the north of the Johnson Street Bridge.

Ralmax has invested about $17 million in upgrades on its leased lands, including the construction of a marine turntable, new sheet-pile docks and a wastewater treatment system.

No terms of any purchase offer have been received by the city. The councillors simply have said they are open to consider such a fair-marketvalue offer.

Isitt says there are many unanswered questions regarding the four cityowned properties on Harbour Road, including:

- whether they are really surplus to the city's needs;

- whether the city realizes the greatest economic benefit by selling, rather than leasing the lands;

- whether the city is a stronger position as owner or regulator of the lands when it comes to sustaining a working harbour and ensuring a manufacturing base;

- If the lands are deemed surplus to the city's needs, whether a sale through negotiation with the current tenant produce would the best return.

Only Isitt and Coun. Shellie Gudgeon voted against exploring the possibility of the sale.

"I have a lot of concerns. Everything from the environmental - in the future could we potentially see a waterfront park on some of those lands - to the industrial concerns," Isitt said.

"Does the city have a stronger role to play in terms of ensuring a working harbour and a manufacturing base as owner rather than just the regulator of the land?" he asked.

Ralmax president Ian Maxwell was unavailable for comment.

"The city has indicated it would at least be interested in seeing what sort of offer would be put forward and weigh that against holding long-term lease agreements," Mayor Dean Fortin said.

"We obviously want to find out what's best for the citizens of Victoria and understand what may be offered on the table."

The Harbour Road properties were granted to the city by the province in 1989 for $1.

The lands are designated under the official community plan and harbour plan as marine industrial sites, and are zoned for marine industrial uses.

Under city policy, the proceeds of any sale of city lands must go to property acquisition reserves and cannot be used for operations. Under the policy, 10 per cent of the proceeds of any city land sale must go to the Parks and Greenways Acquisition Reserve Fund, with the balance going to the Tax Sale Land Reserve Fund.

Isitt and Coun. Shellie Gudgeon will hold a forum May 9 at the Fairfield Community Centre to discuss issues surrounding the sale of city-owned properties.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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