Tonight at council we debated selling the land that was Germaine Park and ultimately the sale was defeated.
Anyone from Grande Prairie knows the area I'm talking about. It's been a concern downtown for a long time but I'm not going to go in to the long back story here. With this post I just wanted to take a moment and explain why I voted against selling it.
Firstly, council made the decision to go ahead with the sale about a year ago and at the time the land was worth about $295,000. For some reason it took city staff some time to get the land on the market and in that intervening time, as we all know, the market changed. So when the land was actually listed it was now at the new appraised value of $195,000 - a drop of $100,000 in less than an year!
So that's probably the biggest reason; what little land the city owns we hold land on behalf of the residents and I don't believe that the city should sell it at fire-sale prices. I think our job on council is to make responsible, long term, decisions that that get the best value for residents. We need to take a long term view and I thought this would have been short sighted.
Secondly is the fact that even if we had sold it there was no guarantee something would have happened quickly on the site. As was mentioned by the city clerk at tonight's meeting there were conditions on the sale, the purchaser would have to build something. BUT, those conditions were only that they had to get a development permit within 5 years and then be finished construction within an additional 2 years. It could be 7 years before anything new opened on the site! I think the community is looking for improvement well before then.
So, because of those two things I voted against the sale.
BUT, I also believe that something has to happen there....
The site is still an eyesore that detracts from our downtown and hurts local businesses so after the motion failed and the sale was off I proposed something else. I tried a motion to direct staff to bring back information on upgrading the site as a parking lot.
I know we need to do something there - a proper parking lot would provide a useful asset for the area. It would clean up the look of the place and it's a good way to hold land until you're ready to do something else. Heck, it could even generate a little revenue if the stalls had meters or were rented. Unfortuantely that motion failed.
So I guess we'll have a discussion at a committee about what to do next. I can't support practically giving away land that belongs to the residents of the city. I'll be pushing for the city to hold on to the land for the time being and to clean it up so it's a useful asset to our downtown.