POWELL RIVER, B.C. – Powell River Waterfront Development Corporation (PRWDC) president Wayne Brewer believes a land sale next to Brooks Secondary will strengthen and diversify the local economy.

The PRWDC announced on Tuesday that it has accepted an offer by Sino Bright Investments Ltd. to purchase land adjacent to the school for the development of an International School Campus.

The property will be subdivided out of the remaining 80 acres of Lot 2 DL 450 (the former golf course lands in the Townsite) for $300,000, with a planned completion date of Aug. 1. The sale is subject to the successful subdivision and rezoning of the property, which will be done at the buyer’s expense.

In a phone interview with MyPowellRiverNow.com newsroom, Brewer said that ever since he moved to Powell River, there has been a constant fear of the mill closing.

“We watched the mill almost go bankrupt a few years back, so there is that concern,” he said. “Our mandate is to try and diversify the economy and attract other businesses, and help broaden the tax base and decrease our reliance on the mill.”

He said the land sale will help accomplish this goal.

“This is a clean, green sort of activity that will generate a lot of revenue,” Brewer said. “I don’t know what the annual amount will be but some experts said that this language school could produce for the city as much as $10 million a year in money flowing through the local economy. So that obviously is a very good thing.”

Brewer noted that it’s important not to lose the Sino Bright investment “and let them slip away to another community.”

“There was a real fear that we would lose them; that they would… open up their language school somewhere else. Other communities would love to have them come and do it there,” he added.

He believes the transaction is important for Brooks Secondary School because it enhances opportunities for all students.

“Our graduating numbers have been dwindling over the past few years and having students from elsewhere coming in really helps keep our school viable,” Brewer added.

A few months ago, the PRWDC became the owner of the old golf course lands in the Townsite and that provided the opportunity for the property sale to Sino Bright.

The international high school had previously been looking at locating its school on another parcel of property adjacent to Brooks Secondary School, but the provincial Agricultural Land Commission turned down an application to exclude the property from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The subject property that Sino Bright wants to purchase will be a rectangular shaped parcel below Marine Avenue opposite Brooks Secondary School, directly adjacent to Marine Avenue and extending from Laurel Street part way towards the haul road.

Sino Bright President Quan Ouyang said the agreement to purchase the Townsite property demonstrates that his organization has remained committed to Powell River: “We are pleased to have a deal in place and look forward to working toward developing the new school campus,” Ouyang said.

The remaining approximately 70-acre parcel of the old golf course land owned by PRWDC, which is currently zoned “industrial use” and designated under the City’s Sustainable Official Community Plan as “employment centre” under land use, are available for sale, as is Block 56, the 100 acres above the highway in Wildwood adjacent to the sewage lagoon.

Brewer said there has been discussion of Sino Bright building some classrooms and dormitories, but he couldn’t confirm if that was the case.

“The idea is that they would live here, they would take classes, and they buy places,” he said. “This is why it helps make our school operation more viable to have money flowing in from elsewhere. It’s good for the economy and it’s not a polluting, sort of heavy industry.”

Perceived conflict sparks discussion over resignation

Brewer said he would happily step down as PRWDC president if the land sale is perceived as a conflict of interest.

His son Russell is the city’s chief administrative officer.

“The city is a shareholder or owner of the waterfront corporation,” he explained, “so I’m on the board of a city-owned corporation but my son is (the) CAO of the city. So there has been a suggestion by some – and these are whispers on Facebook, and I don’t even go on these Facebook sites to see what people are saying – but some people are saying there’s a conflict. How can two Brewers both be involved? It seems wrong to them.”

On Tuesday night, Brewer suggested to city council that if they believe there is a conflict, he would “gladly resign.”

“I really enjoy what I’m doing, I’m trying to help the city,” he said. “I don’t get paid for this, and it takes a lot of time, but I’m happy to do it because I think we’re doing good work. But if it hinders the city’s work in any way, or if it hinders my son’s work in any way, then I can step down. Someone else can take my spot.”

He said his work with the PRWDC is ongoing.

“We have other properties that we still need to market, and the city may want us to continue doing other things,” Brewer said. “If the community feels that it’s a conflict; that I shouldn’t be doing it because another family member works for the city, then there’s an easy fix. I’ll step down and no one can point fingers and say, ‘This doesn’t seem right.’”