Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ask Your Question

This is your chance to ask your question. Just click on the word "Comment" at the bottom of this post. Perhaps the information your are seeking is covered in these links:


Rhonda said...
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Rhonda said...

It is my understanding that Millennium Park was the benefit that would be gained by the citizens of Powell River from the City's participation in the Joint Venture.

I read on the PRREDS website in the Powell River Waterfront Plan (p.24) that "Some of this land (the proposed Millenium Park) is already owned by the CDPR. The remainder of the land is owned by Norske, although the trees are owned by another company. A complex negotiation is required to transfer ownership of the land and trees to the municipality" (emphasis mine).

In the PRSC Business Plan Appendix A (pp 30-31) I read:

The Millennium Park Subdivision is to be the subject of an option by the City of Powell River to acquire approximately 84 acres of the property for a fixed consideration of $1.5 million cash which is forecast to be exercised in 2011.

The financial forecasts indicate surplus cash of $2.9 million available as at December 31, 2011 in addition to undeveloped property holdings inventory at carrying value of $612,000 ( approximately 575 acres), for a total Limited Partnership participants’ book value equity of $3.7 million. Surplus cash will be available for distribution to Limited Partnership participants and/or further development of remaining property holdings as at
December 31, 2011.

Benefits to City: • Contributes to the creation of Millennium Park, a large swath of green space in the centre of the community.

In a November 2, 2005 Peak article I read:

Councillor David Gabelhouse asked if the $1.5 million for Millennium Park was part of the $4.5 million the joint venture was paying for Catalyst's surplus lands.

Douglas explained the $1.5 million for the park is included in the $4.5 million purchase price. The $4.5 million will be generated by the joint venture selling the lands it acquires. The city doesn't have to raise the $1.5 million through property taxes or by borrowing the money.

I read the following in the June 22, 2006 article in the Peak "City on track to secure Millennium Park:

"We can proudly walk Millennium Park and know that it is ours." -- Mayor Stewart Alsgard

Powell River's city council remains committed to the joint venture and the benefits that will flow to residents, said Mayor Stewart Alsgard during an address at the June 13 council meeting.

"These benefits include economic diversity, increased assessment base, enhanced tax revenues, opportunities for young families to realize their potential in Powell River and, most importantly of all, the preservation of Millennium Park for all of our future generations to enjoy," he said. "That is why we entered into the joint venture and that is why we will follow through with it, so we can proudly walk Millennium Park and know that it is ours."

So the transfer of ownership of land and trees in 2011 as a benefit of the Joint Venture has become instead an option to purchase land only with no safeguarding trees in 2008. How did this happen?

I believe this City needs a Millennium Park WITH trees. If we take the 1.5 million dollars that would be spent on the referendum and instead direct the City to purchase the cutting rights to the trees we will be a lot further ahead. The land will not get up and walk away, but the trees could very well end up on the back of a logging truck if we don't do something fast. The City is within its rights to zone the area as park land, thereby preventing development at the site until such time as the City has the means to purchase the land also.

I would urge everyone who loves the leafy, beautiful canopy of Millennium Park to vote no on the current referendum and ask for a referendum to buy the trees of Millennium Park instead. That way the City truly maintains control over what happens at the Park and preserves it for generations to come...trees intact.

Rhonda said...

edit- (I just wanted to add the part of the above comment that somehow didn't get cut and pasted into the text.)

I'd also like to thank Eagle Walz, all other members of the Millennium Park Committee and the hundreds of volunteers who have worked thousands of hours trying to make the dream of Millennium Park a reality. Your passion is inspiring and an example of the immense energy of community pulling together. If the referendum passes, I'll be right by your side planting and landscaping and helping to make up for the loss of trees at the site. If the referendum does not pass and I am elected to Council I will do everything possible to try and secure cutting rights to the trees, preserving them, and Millennium park for generations to come.

Eagle said...

Dear Rhonda,

Thank you very much for your questions and comments.

You are correct in your understanding "that Millennium Park was the benefit that would be gained by the citizens of Powell River from the city's participation in the Joint Venture."

You correctly pointed out that the waterfront plan stated that a complex negotiation is required to transfer ownership of the land and trees to the municipality. Of course this was in 2005. And since then, the proposed park hasn't been sold, or logged, and that despite the fact that the land no longer belongs to Norske, nor Catalyst, but PRSC. Transfer of ownership of lands and trees did not imply that it was going to be given away.

The PRSC business plan goes back to when the company was working with a buyer to purchase some of the property they had acquired from Catalyst. This could have allowed PRSC to pay off its mortgage of $4.5 million plus accrued interest to Catalyst, placing the city in a much better position due to the fact that the mortgage was gone, that PRSC would still have had a sizeable inventory of real estate plus a tidy balance for the partnership in the bank. All of this would have made it more attractive and easier for the city and PRSC to move forward on the next sale of land, which would have been Millennium Park.

As you know, the property never sold. Recently, PRSC approached the city and offered it the proposed park lands for $1.5 million. The city responded by deciding to ask the public through a referendum whether the voters would approve acquisition of the park lands for $1.5 million.

In the first line of the quote from the PRSC business plan it talks about 84 acres (about 37 hectares) of property, and does not mention trees, simply because the trees are not PRSC's to sell. They belonged then, and still do today, to Island Timberlands with whom PRSC and the Millennium Park Committee is in good faith negotiations to work out a tree retention plan that will be satisfactory to both parties.

As for your assertion that the land would not walk away, again you are correct. That is not to say that the land could not be sold. And it could indeed be sold to anyone who had the money - which would probably be more in the neighbourhood of $5 million rather than the generous offer of $1.5 million to the city.

In conclusion, the city has now been offered an expansive waterfront park at a considerable discount by PRSC. It is up to the people of this community to do their part to actualize this opportunity. This is the benefit that could be gained by the citizens of Powell River from the city's participation in the Joint Venture at the cost of a cup of coffee per week.

We urge the public to vote yes for Millennium Park because we have a once in a life-time opportunity, that we either accept or reject. By rejecting it we would ensure the demise of an enlarged park, a dramatic shortening of Willingdon Beach Trail to a quarter of its current length and no protection for the uplands and the urban salmon stream. On the other hand, by voting yes for Millennium Park we will ensure that we will be able to enjoy our Stanley Park, now and into the future, leaving a legacy for generations to come, a park with largely natural spaces remaining intact, as well as a few green spaces with lawns and forest gardens like at Lost Lagoon in Vancouver and Beacon Hill in Victoria, that are enjoyed by the millions. We too are capable of creating a green space which will be cherished by residents and visitors alike.

Again, thank you for raising this issue, and doing some excellent research. I am sure there are others who like you, were unaware of some of these details, and so it is good to have this posted on the blog. I hope that this will help explain how we arrived where we are today. And please, to find out more details still, attend our Millennium Park rally at 1 pm on Sunday, October 19 at Willingdon Beach and our public meeting on Thursday, November 6 at the Moose Hall at 7:00 pm, or call me for further explanations.


Doug said...

Hi Eagle, Doug Flesher here.
This is very confusing. As a retired Canfor employee, I have heard of Private tree plantations, where the land and trees are owned and logged. And then there are Tree Farm Licenses, where the crown owns the land and trees and auctions off the cutting rights.
In this case as I understand it, the trees and land were granted to the Mill Owners in perpetuity to act as the "Lungs" of the Townsite and help to combat the Mill pollution. How could the two entitys be legally separated and partially sold off? (Trees that is).
In any event, with a provincial election on the horizon, has anyone been talking to Rich Coleman to possibly conduct a swap of a TFL in exchange for the MP Trees? Maybe we could name a trail or an outhouse or something after him.

Eagle said...

Dear Doug,
Thank you for making the effort to understand what has been a complex series of historic events that ended up in transfering the property and the trees into two separate hands. I would like to provide you with a rough sketch to try to help you understand an extremely complex situation. Perhaps we will get a chance to talk in the coming days to further clarify your questions.
When the mill was founded it received Lot 450 to help them with a supply of wood to get started. In the 50's Powell River Company was sold to MacMillan Bloedel which also got a treefarm licence from government for an ensured fiber supply. In the late 90's MacMillanBloedel split into two separate legal entities, one that ran the mill, and the other that had the timber, Stillwater Division.
It was at that time that MacMillanBloedel Stillwater also negotiated the rights to log the current crop of trees standing on the land now belonging to the mill division. Once logged, these rights are extinguished. The owners of the mill told the owners of the timber to log their assets on Lot 450 because the mill wanted to get on with plans they had. That caused a bit of an uproar in town and there were public hearings held with lawyer David Perry conducting one on behalf of the province. At that time (1999) the Millennium Park Committee was formed to advocate for the creation of Millennium Park, something we have contintued to do involving the public in the process.
Since then, both the mill and the owners of the timber each changed hands a few times, resulting in Catalyst Paper (the mill) and Weyerhaeuser. Weyerhaeuser eventually split into two entitites when the government allowed the private lands to be removed from the tree farm licenses overriding public opposition. We now have Western Forest Products, owners of the tree farm license (crown lands), and on the other hand we have Island Timberlands, owners of the private lands and also the timber on it, including the timber that is on the area of Lot 450 that the Millennium Park Committee identified for a park in the heart of the city.
Meanwhile, Catalyst wanted to divest some of its surplus lands and entered into a joint venture (PRSC)with the city of Powell River and Sliammon First Nation to accomplish that. One of the intended results was to provide the opportunity for the city to acquire Millennium Park.
And remember through all this the mill had asked the owners of the timber (Weyerhaeuser/ Cascadia/Island Timberlands)to liquidize their assets - the current crop of trees from the mill's lands, which then became the PRSC lands.
Starting about eight years ago, a fair bit of logging was done in the Lot 450 lands, but in all that time public pressure led by the Millennium Park Committee prevented logging of the area dubbed Millennium Park. About two years ago PRSC/Millennium Park Committee began meetings to work out an agreement whose purpose it was to retain vast tracts of trees within the park, but also to allow some selective logging that would yield some value to the logging company. And this is where we are today: PRSC/MPC have been meeting with Island Timberlands and negotiating in good faith, making progress. We will be meeting with them next week in an effort to reach an agreement that we think will be acceptable to a large majority of the local population, and that Island Timberlands thinks is acceptable to its board of directors.
I hope this is helpful to you. Thank you for your interest. This project enjoys massive support from the citizens of Powell River and the district, and even farther afield. Over 2000 individual donors have put their money where their mouth is and donated nearly $90,000. We continue to work hard to make the park a reality. You can help us create a legacy. Vote YES on the referendum ballot.


Eagle said...

Hi Doug,

Yes, a short addendum: We have asked the minister of forests, even had the MLA take it forward on our behalf as well. There was no give. But thanks for the tip. We have literally pursued dozens of initiatives over the years, which have lead to where we are today. And that's where my earlier post comes in.


Rhonda said...

Dear Eagle,

Thanks for your willingness to walk through this information with me. I've been inspired by the diligent work of your committee and by the public response to it. It inspired me so much that I've decided I will vote yes on the referendum even though I would have liked to explore the tree purchase option more fully. I do feel that the community really wants to do this and that is reason enough for me to support it. I think communities are wise and that when there is truly a current flowing toward a positive goal that it is mandatory that leaders come along side it and support it.

That being said, there is a not-insignificant percentage of people I talk to about Millennium Park who feel that the original intention of City's interest in PRSC - the described benefit that was to accrue - was to secure Millennium Park for the City of Powell River with the 1.5 million in profits generated for the partners. This sense was clearly displayed in the documents I quoted from above. To come from that position to the one we are currently in (the referendum asking taxpayers to authorize 1.5 million dollars to purchase the park) without so much as an explanation as to why is baffling to them and also to me.

I think that someone, somewhere along the line needs to acknowledge that PRSC was formed with no consultation from the public. That it attempted to remove land from the ALR against huge public opposition. That it failed in doing so because the plan it proposed was ill thought out, because it had done no meaningful public consultation and because it lacked widespread public support. If it would have consulted the public prior to forming PRSC, it would have known this.

It now finds itself in a pickle because it never delivered what it promised. The referendum, if it passes, will be one of the only deals that puts any money at all back in PRSC's coffers. Yet there has never been any public acknowledgment of the fact that PRSC has been a complete failure. Now it seems there is a sort of gloss on the situation of "PRSC promised to deliver Millennium Park to the citizens of PR and look, we're doing it" if the referendum situation is the way things were meant to be all along. In fact, PRSC placed all its eggs in the Yrainucep basket and it lost. Big time. And now the citizens, who weren't supposed to be directly paying for the Park are doing just that.

Anyway, this is exactly what many people are telling me as I talk to them about what's important to them. I think a public acknowledgment of what went wrong would go a very long way in gaining sympathy for a yes vote on the referendum. Everyone screws up. I think people can be very forgiving of that when it's openly admitted. But not doing so tends to cast a pall on the whole process.

Another minor point from your post above:

You say, "As for your assertion that the land would not walk away, again you are correct. That is not to say that the land could not be sold. And it could indeed be sold to anyone who had the money - which would probably be more in the neighbourhood of $5 million rather than the generous offer of $1.5 million to the city."

It is not exactly true that all of the land could be sold to anyone who has the money. Some of the land in Parcel B is still ALR land. It would either need to be sold as agricultural land or have the City attempt to have it taken out of the ALR again in order for it to be subdivided and sold.

Anyway, as I said above, I find the work of the committee and the public support it has gained inspiring.

You are certainly an eloquent spokesman and have been very gracious in this blog conversation and I thank you for the time you've spent in doing so. I'll see you at the rally tomorrow where I also will encourage people to vote yes for the referendum.