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‘Everyone wants it’: Wayne Brewer on city purchase of PRWDC lands

POWELL RIVER, B.C. – The City of Powell River is looking at purchasing all Powell River Waterfront Development Corporation (PRWDC) lands for $1.4 million.

A report from CFO Adam Langenmaier and Scott Randolph, the city’s director of economic development and communications, recommended that the city include $1.4 million in the five-year financial plan for the purchase, and that the funding be sourced through a short-term loan from the Municipal Finance Authority.

Contacted by the newsroom, PRWDC president Wayne Brewer said the purchase “will almost certainly go through.”

“Everyone wants it,” he added.

In 2014, the city guaranteed a loan on behalf of the PRWDC to purchase half of Catalyst Paper Corporation’s shares in PRSC Limited Partnership.

According to the report, the loan guarantee can only last five years, “and it is not appropriate for the City to extend the guarantee or enter a new guarantee on behalf of PRWDC.”

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The guarantee started in September 2014 and is set to expire August 31, 2019.

As of Sept. 1, 2019, it is estimated PRWDC will owe $1,380,716.79 on the loan held by the First Credit Union assuming no principal payments are made from today until expiry.

Brewer offered some background on the loan. “Waterfront Development Corporation borrowed from the credit union to buy into the deal when all that land – 800 acres I think it was – came up for sale, for surplus lands that Catalyst had. And Tla’amin Nation wanted to go into the deal and the City of Powell River wanted into the deal. It’s the Waterfront Development Corporation board that actually owned the land together with Tla’amin Nation, but the city had to guarantee the loan. So that’s due to paid out in August.”

The PRWDC proposed to the city that it takes the land off the corporation’s hands, and, Brewer said, “we’ll pay off the loans, and they’ll have two parcels of land worth probably at least three-quarters of a million dollars more than they’ll have paid for the land.”

Brewer noted that the city has “a really good planning department” along with an economic development officer, whereas the PRWDC is made up entirely of volunteers.

“So it makes so much sense that the city take over and hold consultations,” Brewer said. “They can review the Official Community Plan, (then) decide what they should do with the lands, whether they should develop them, sell them… whatever. It just makes so much sense.”

In February, the PRWDC accepted an offer by Sino Bright to purchase 10 acres of land next to Brooks Secondary for the development of an International School Campus.

But in a letter to the PRWDC dated March 13, Sino Bright co-owner Yufang Sun said, “We are writing to ask that you dissolve our contract for the purchase and sale of the lands listed above and that the Corporation return our deposit of $30,000.00.”

The deal had faced a firestorm from the public, some of whom alleged a lack of transparency and backroom dealings. Critics also contended that the land was sold at a bargain price. There were also some comments on social media with racial undertones, leaving Sino Bright’s Chinese owners questioning whether they were welcome in the community.

The report noted that, “With the Sino Bright Investments Purchase Agreement being extinguished, staff believe that now is the time for the City to purchase the PRWDC properties in order to address several matters:

  • Based on public feedback regarding the proposed sale to Sino Bright, it is believed that it may be better that the City own the properties in order to provide more direction over future development.
  • The City needs to address the issue of the Loan Guarantee prior to August 31, 2019.”

Brewer said only a small minority was vocal in their opposition to the school.

“We just have to make them (the Sino Bright owners) feel comfortable, convince them that the community does want them to come here, because in terms of economic development, it just makes so much sense.”

As for the corporation, once the lands are transferred back to the city, Brewer predicts that the city will put the company on the shelf.

“It’s a good vehicle, it has its purpose, when we did that joint venture with Tla’amin Nation, something like that might come up again, and they’ll be able to pull the company off the shelf so to speak and us it to do another joint venture, possibly,” Brewer said.

Brewer said the PRWDC helped the city acquire quite a bit of land and helped Tla’amin Nation “acquire what they wanted.”

“It’s been a real win/win as far as I’m concerned,” Brewer said. “It’s a good news story.”

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